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Thomas Jane On Why Murder At Yellowstone City Deals With 'Everyday Problems' - Exclusive

For Thomas Jane, "Murder at Yellowstone City" is more than just another role in another movie — it's a labor of love. Not only does he star as preacher Thaddeus Murphy, but he also executive produced the film, which was created by his production company, Renegade Entertainment.

Also starring Gabriel Byrne, Richard Dreyfuss, and Isaiah Mustafa, "Murder at Yellowstone City" — which is now in theaters and available on demand and digital — takes place in a small Montana town where a local prospector is murdered soon after discovering gold. The crime is pinned on a former slave who recently showed up, but all signs quickly start pointing at his innocence.

Jane, who has previously starred in "Deep Blue Sea," "The Punisher," and "Hung," said the role was appealing to him because he loves the genre and what it allows him to do as an actor: "You get to ride horses and shoot guns and save the woman and mess with the bad guys and stand up for justice." But beyond that, he sees the Western trope as a microcosm of society, dealing with "everyday problems." It's an idea Jane expanded on during an exclusive interview with Looper.

Jane believes Westerns hold concepts that 'refuse to die'

As a preacher with a dark past in "Murder at Yellowstone City," Thomas Jane becomes embroiled in the town's murder mystery when he dares to question whether the local authorities have the right man. It's a storyline the veteran actor sees as both pure entertainment and taking a deeper dive into what makes society tick.

"The Western is enduring because it's real simple," he said. "It explores that conflict between individual freedom and the duty that you have to society. Society is usually represented by the town in a Western, and the town is besieged by some kind of evil, whether from the inside — like a corrupt sheriff, as our film deals with — or the outside, like a band of outlaws that come to rape and pillage. The town is either basically good, but weak and in need of some sort of defense, or it's strong, but bad and corrupt in a way."

Enter "the outsider," who in this film is played by Mustafa, a quiet loner accused of murder.

"[The outsider] is not a part of the society; he's shunned by the society for one reason or another," said Jane. "Then, he is revealed to have special skills — he's an exceptional gun fighter or some other special skill, and he's uniquely positioned to take on the villainy that is corrupting or plaguing the town. We see real simple archetypes [in Westerns] that connect with us, because they're everyday problems that we all deal with."

He continued, "We're all searching for our individual freedom and the right to be left alone and do what the hell we want with our lives — as long as we're not hurting anybody — and the duty that we owe to society that allows us to be free. These simple concepts refuse to die, and I think that's why [Westerns are so enduring]."

"Murder at Yellowstone City" is now in theaters and available on demand and digital.