Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Steve Miner

Stars: Dylan McDermott, James Van Der Beek, Robert Patrick, Tom Skerrit, Alfred Molina, Ashton Kutcher, Usher Raymond, Matt Keeslar, Rachel Leigh Cook.

So this is what tv stars do while their regular series take a mid-season break?

Dylan McDermott (from The Practice) and James Van Der Beek (from Dawson’s Creek) pop up in this second rate western about the origin of the Texas Rangers in post-Civil War Texas. It’s an idea that has been explored many times before in the past, and this young guns approach brings little that is particularly new or worthwhile to the table.

McDermott stars as a Civil War hero and former preacher who is commissioned by the governor and a number of wealthy ranchers to start up the Texas Rangers to combat the rising tide of lawlessness gripping Texas in 1875. Bandits roam the country side at will, massacring innocent people, stealing cattle, and crossing the border to Mexico with impunity. McDermott recruits a number of veteran soldiers, but his unit is also made up of young and inexperienced cowboys, who can neither ride nor shoot straight. Van Der Beek plays Donaldson, an educated young man whose parents are killed by bandits and is eager to seek revenge. Unable to shoot he is hired to chronicle the exploits of the Rangers, but eventually he becomes a trusted lieutenant who leads the rangers.

Texas Rangers plays hard and fast with historical facts, dispensing detail and historical accuracy in favour of gun battles and cliches galore. There is something vaguely unsatisfying about the whole thing, and one wonders what a director of the calibre of veteran Sam Peckinpah would have made of similar material two decades ago. The climactic shoot out in a Mexican village is reminiscent of the classic The Wild Bunch, although it is derivative and lacks Peckinpah’s brutal style, and is just pointless carnage rather than an elegiac ballet of blood and bullets.

Steve Miner’s direction is efficient enough. But the film seems rushed, the plotting muddled, and there is a sense that a lot of material has been cut out to reduce the running time to a mere 90 minutes.

McDermott is solid as the flawed leader of the rangers, while Van Der Beek seems less assured and unconvincing. Veteran Tom Skerritt is wasted in a pointless role, as is Rachael Leigh Cook, who briefly provides some romantic interest. As the villainous King Fisher, Alfred Molina (Maverick, etc) does all but twirl his moustache, and his horribly cliched performance is symptomatic of the film’s failings as a whole. The film also features a number of hunky young stars (including Dude, Where’s My Car‘s Ashton Kucher, Matt Keeslar, R&B star Usher Raymond) in smaller roles, but many of them are such milk sops that one wonders how the west was even won at all.

A huge disappointment that puts yet another nail in the coffin of the cinematic western.



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