A burglar, Edge (Lester), breaks into an apartment in New York City, only to be overpowered by an elderly lady, Angela (Murphy).
Rather than report him to the police, she tells him a story about two brothers, Luke (Wenham) and Elijah (Fiennes), who both fall in love with the same woman, Lilith (Brochet), a prostitute in the Wild West around 1900.
She takes Elijah's hand in marriage, leaving Luke to head off to Europe to find his fortune, equipped with his trusty pistol, otherwise known as the "Gospel according to Luke".
Out in the Balkans, he becomes a mercenary, fighting in one of the factions against the Ottoman empire, only to fall for the girlfriend of one of his foes...
The Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski's long-awaited follow-up to "Before the Rain", "Dust" replaces the earlier film's powerful solemnity with overblown excess.
A variation on the Cain and Abel story which borrows heavily from the action scenes in Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch", "Dust" is explicitly concerned with the process of storytelling.
Angela regards herself as the "creative executive" of her own narrative, adding, subtracting and inventing specific details and elements. And Lester's Edge, pursued by crooked cops, takes up the myth-making baton from Angela, regaling a fellow air passenger with what he considers to be an appropriately dramatic ending to the Luke and Elijah rivalry.
Manchevski isn't a film maker who lacks confidence or ambition: switching backwards and forwards in time, he includes cheeky flourishes - such as mock footage of Sigmund Freud throwing up over the side of a liner - and there are some impressive set-pieces amid the striking Macedonian landscapes.
Yet there's something off-putting about the bloodthirsty relish with which violence is choreographed and photographed, whilst Fiennes is hopelessly miscast as the avenging preacher.
Given the production's famously troubled shoot, with reports of soaring temperatures, plagues of wasps, demented sheep, and an outbreak of dysentery, perhaps a 'making-of' documentary might prove more entertaining.