Kevin Costner is no stranger to the Western genre. His breakout role was in the 1985 cowboy adventure Silverado, and he won two Oscars for producing and directing the 1990 film adaptation of Michael Blake’s novel Dances with Wolves, in which he starred. He even portrayed legendary lawman Wyatt Earp in the 1994 movie of the same name. He’s currently executive-producing and starring in the Paramount Network’s series Yellowstone, a violent tale of ranchers in Montana that draws on many elements of old-time Westerns—including an off-putting preoccupation with manly conduct.

The same can be said of Let Him Go, a new film set for a theatrical release on Nov. 6, in which Costner co-stars with Diane Lane. Despite its 1950s setting, it features plenty of familiar genre elements, including an old cowboy spurred to action in his declining years, and a rowdy family of criminals that’s taken over a town; later, it segues into a revenge tale. It’s based on Larry Watson’s 2013 novel of the same name, but it’s leaner and meaner in its execution. Both versions stumble at the end.

The story, set in North Dakota, is a simple one, focusing on an older woman, Margaret Blackledge, and her husband, George, a former sheriff. Their widowed daughter-in-law, Lorna, has taken up with the abusive Donnie Weboy, who moves her and her son, Jimmy, into his mother’s house, a long drive away. The Weboys are known for criminality and violence, and their house, lorded over by matriarch Blanche, is an unsafe place for a youngster to live. Margaret is determined to rescue Jimmy and bring him back home; George is unsure if they have what it takes to go up against the vicious Weboys, but he agrees to accompany her. Along the way, they meet a reclusive young Native American man, Peter Dragswolf, who has troubles of his own. As expected, the Weboys refuse to give Jimmy up—and terrible violence ensues.

Kirkus’ review described the book as “Spartan prose for a Spartan tale of badlands justice,” but the film is even starker, whittling the dialogue down to a sharp point and reveling in its quieter moments: a drink at a water cooler at a small-town jail, a whisper in an ailing horse’s ear.

Interestingly, it’s Margaret who drives the narrative—not George, as one would expect in a genre known for its overwhelmingly male perspective. It’s her idea to go after Jimmy, and she sticks with the plan, even when George has doubts. Her fierce determination makes her the most compelling character, and in the film, Lane’s fiery performance steals the show. That’s no small achievement in a cast that also features the estimable Lesley Manville, who chillingly portrays brutal Blanche, and Burn Notice’s Jeffrey Donovan, who plays Blanche’s dangerous son, Bill, with swaggering menace. Booboo Stewart also offers a low-key and thoughtful performance as Peter.

Costner, meanwhile, simply offers a slight variation of his usual Everyman—he’s not anywhere near as confident as The Untouchables’ Elliot Ness, say, or JFK’s Jim Garrison, which is refreshing. In the end, though, George makes a predictable decision—one that many readers (and viewers) will wish that the admirably tough-minded Margaret had made instead.

Writer/director Thomas Bezucha, to his credit, seems the sense the problem, as he has Margaret play a much larger part in the film’s bloody final act. The result, though, is easy to see coming. In the end, Let Him Go’s greatest tragedy is that it just can’t let go of the Code of the West, in which a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.

David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.