Rolls Royce’s Cullinan Black Badge in
A New Spin on the Classic Western Trope
The western cliché as we know it today dates to 1093 with the first western film, The Great Train Robbery. Fast-forward 120 years since that first cowboy flick and the western is still a popular genre of storytelling with modern interpretation, like Disney’s The Mandalorian. Of course, whether you set your western in 1880 or in a galaxy far, far away, the key concepts remain the same. You have an antagonist dressed in black, a protagonist with a quick wit and faster draw, and – of course – a fast horse. It can be tough to find a new way to tell a familiar story, but film director Jeremy Heslup and Valkyr Productions have done so with their latest project, The Gunslinger (2022).
This five-minute film embeds the viewer in a feature-length experience on the American Frontier with the aid of a 592-hp V12 Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Its black powder against horsepower in the pursuit of gold and justice.
The Gunslinger (2022), a Short Film Directed by Jeremy Heslup
Set in a small mining town in late 1800s Montana, a gang of armed bandits have taken over. Isabel, the local saloon gal, watches in horror as violence descends on her town like a fog. Sensing the inevitable, she sends a message to a gunfighter of few words but many bullets. When the gang plucks the town’s stockpile of gold from its iron nest, Isabel takes arms and stands her ground against the gang’s leader, a man in a black hat. Before you can say Mexican stand-off, a tremble is felt in the ground as the sound of approaching thunder echoes over the horizon.
Itchy trigger fingers pause in fear at the Cullinan’s 592 horses stampeding in perfect synchronicity into the besieged town. In its grandiose entrance, a black-badged Rolls-Royce Cullinan storms into the town’s center, spooking the bandits as they flee with sacks of gold stuffed in saddle bags. Stepping out of the V12-powered stagecoach is the gunfighter. Isabel wastes no time in riding shotgun, with a lever-action rifle.
The two heroes give chase in their black badged, V12-powered steel thoroughbred on dusty trails, over photogenic hills, and across crystal clear rivers in the Montana wilderness. The Rolls-Royce Cullinan steals every scene as it pursues the thieving bandits at full gallop, proving that its much more than a super land yacht as it brushes dirt, gravel, and mud off its 22-inch wheels.
A Nugget of Cinematic Gold
Filming a great western takes more than a horse and sepia filter. The period-correct locations seen in The Gunslinger were shot at Yellowstone Film Ranch, located near Livingston, Montana. This locale provides an ideal setting for media productions in need of capturing the American Frontier on film.
Valkyr’s production quality on this film is nothing short of professional. Watching the Behind-the-Scenes video gives you a sense of the logistical scope director Jeremy Heslup and his team undertook. Costumes, travel, actors, props, original music, and (of course) securing the Hero from Rolls-Royce all came together for the film’s completion, which took less than a week. The finished product offers the viewer cinematography that rivals multi-million-dollar budgets.
Moreover, the film stays true to its western inspiration. Certain scenes can be viewed as a homage to all-time classics like Sergio Leone’s iconic Dollar’s trilogy. The lack of dialog – for example – and letting the eyes do the talking made me think of the pages of unspoken communication between Charles Bronson and Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). An actor’s face becoming its own character is a classic Leone trademark.
In addition, Heslup’s extensive experience filming high-speed automotive content shows in how the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge comes across on the screen. As an automotive journalist, I’m amazed that Rolls-Royce loaned Heslup a Black Badge Cullinan to kick up dirt in Montana for several days. Ask any automotive writer or influencer, and they’ll tell you that Rolls-Royce keeps a tight grip on their key fobs – as they should.
On a related side note, the concept of a modern vehicle chasing down cowboys in an Old West setting is a captivating idea and one that should be studied further.
The Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge Stagecoach
The real star of the film is the Rolls-Royce Cullinan Black Badge. The hero luxury stagecoach storms onto the screen with all-wheel drive and a gleaming black chrome grille. Within the expanding Rolls-Royce lineup, the Black Badge is technically considered a performance package. It bumps the Cullinan’s V12 brawn from 563 to 592 horsepower, and updates the suspension to handle its increased power output.
More notably, the Black Badge drapes over the Cullinan’s trim in a shadow of black chrome that includes the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. The appearance side of its performance pack is topped off with a set of 22-inch black chrome wheels, a Black Badge exclusive. The theme continues inside with Technical Carbon trim, unique trim options, and a bespoke Starlight headliner, which has a memorable cameo in the film.
As a fan of both film and cars, I commend Jeremy Heslup and the entire production crew for their work on The Gunslinger. In an era where Hollywood is leaning heavily on politically-influenced flashy nostalgia over originality, it’s refreshing to see independent filmmakers like Heslup produce quality work without a blank check from a streaming service. However, to justify a new project he needs support where it matters most, i.e., viewership.
Every artist needs an audience. Click the link and watch Jeremy Heslups’ short film The Gunslinger on YouTube.