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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Shadow Riders

Unlike the previous two Selleck/TNT westerns reviewed here, The Shadow Riders does feel and look like a TV movie. And an 80's TV movie at that - it's almost Magnum in a stetson.

That's not to say it's a bad movie - it isn't but it is definitely aimed at the family audience and it lacks the substance of Monty Walsh or the suspense of The Crossfire Trail. Directed by Andrew V Mclaglen who was also responsible for several of John Wayne's more comedic westerns and written by Louis Lamour specifically for the talents of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot,as brothers who fought on opposite sides during the Civil War,  the movie aims from the get go to present safe family viewing. It's a pity because the interesting premise of the brothers from opposite sides is wasted.

A group of women are kidnapped by Rebels who plan to sell them in order to raise money to continue fighting a war that is officially over. Katherine Ross is among the women and she does her best with a thin script - the problem here is that none of the women ever seem to be in real danger and as such there is little suspense to be felt.

Selleck and Sam Elliot are the brothers who wore the blue and the grey respectively. Together with a third brother and their scoundrel of an uncle they are in pursuit of the stolen women. Two of them being their sisters and Katherine Ross is Sam Elliot's sweetheart.

Clint Eastwood regular Geoffrey Lewis plays a renegade major but his character comes across as cartoonist rather than sinister. And when the bullets start to fly there is of course little blood. Those hit throw their hands up, utter a short scream and die rather nicely. When a bad guy is punched he falls unconscious immediately and a single stick of dynamite can take out all the bad guys. It's your old fashioned good guys in white hats and bad guys in black. The fact that Lamour wrote the story for a TV movie may explain why it is so light-hearted. Though the style seems to be more in line with the director's previous work and it is just possible Lamour intended this to be a serious all action western. Wall to wall clich├ęs are evident - the good guys run across the roof of a train while the bad guys shoot up through the ceiling. Another problem with the movie is that most of the locations look like California.

The film is fun, though and worth watching  - the stand out turn comes from Ben Johnson as Uncle Jack who is an endearing devil may care character. Despite his advanced years he's wanted by the law, not only for shooting people and robbing things (yep, it's that black and white)  but also for having an  affair with the sheriff's wife.

The Shadow Riders then is not a bad movie - it's light hearted and is a disappointment after the excellence of both Monte Walsh and The Crossfire Trail, but then it's a different type of western. And is something to be watched with the children.

And I guess there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Next up Last Stand at Sabre River...

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