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Never again can anyone tell me it’s hard to assemble a high-profile cast. I bought into all the hoop-la surrounding the scouting of Ocean’s Eleven’s crew and actually thought most actors would wait for that killer script before jumping on board with a large group of household names. Granted, the James Van Der Beek’s and Ashton Kutcher’s of this world haven’t yet reached the dizzying heights of Clooney, Pitt, Roberts et al but just how the producers managed to snaffle several high-profile Hollywood fringe-dwellers for a film like Texas Rangers is beyond me.

Movie
That’s not to say this movie’s a stinker. We’ve already seen American Outlaws and agreed it deserves every critical caning it gets but there’s something about that band of Texas Rangers and the bad guys they fight that makes this one stand out.

Miramax reportedly rode off into the sunset well before the film’s theatrical release, not surprisingly leading to the flick’s no-show on the big screens in Australia. The film also spent the best part of a year in cinema limbo as distributors worked up the courage to release it. While its limited theatrical run in the States inevitably lead to poor box-office takings the film could well find its niche among the rental and retail video and DVD market.

Texas Rangers

When an unruly bunch of Mexicans disrupt a cattle auction and turn their guns on all the innocent parties, young survivor Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (Van Der Beek) decides he must avenge the death of his mother by riding with a group called the Texas Rangers. This group, guided by brooding lawman McNelly (Dylan McDermott), aims to protect the rest of the state from the outlaws and their killing spree. The rest of the gang is a bit of a mixed bag; there’s the bumbling young kid named George Durham (Kutcher playing the fool), nuggety gunslinger Frank Bones (Randy Travis) and aspiring negro sharpshooter Randolph Scipio (Usher. Yes, the musical one).

There’s plenty more where that came from, too. Alfred Molina plays the out-and-out bad guy in the film, stealing loads of cattle and shooting anyone in sight without batting an eyelid. Rachel Leigh Cook makes a small cameo, once again surprising all of us who can’t believe they all agreed to join in on such low profile fare.

The acting on the whole is actually quite good. McDermott can act but isn’t all that different from his television persona, Van Der Beek is again cast as the eloquent nice guy and Cook just waltzes through her small cameo looking like an angel. Ashton Kutcher deserves better than this (and Dude, Where’s My Car, I might add) and it comes as a complete surprise that Molina jumped on board, yet he turns in a serviceable performance. But even the talented Molina can’t disguise the fact that the gap between Frida and Texas Rangers is bigger than the Grand Canyon.

While it came as somewhat of a surprise that this film actually worked to some degree, it’s hard to not think this whole western genre hasn’t been done to death over the years. There’s barely a stone left unturned in terms of finding new plot lines for the Wild West theme, so don’t expect a hit like Unforgiven for quite some time. Nevertheless, this is a little bit of fun with a disturbingly clean Hollywood cast and you’ll end up just coasting until the schmaltzy finale.

Texas Rangers

Video
This 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is very ,very good. Perhaps a little too good in parts as a “twilight” scene smacks of being filmed during the day and touched up in post-production. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s a credit to the transfer that something like this is even picked up. Shadow detail is excellent, as are the vibrant yellows of the west. Sharpness and detail is top notch with no instances of aliasing or edge enhancement to be seen. Another great effort from Roadshow who continue to churn out top notch visual transfers on all their releases, not just the premium titles.

Audio
The disc comes with a very impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that utilises all the speakers quite well. The main effect, of course, is the whizzing of bullets around the rears but you can also hear the deep pounding of horse hooves and various other effects bouncing around each of your speakers. The subwoofer is used very sparingly, though there are occasions where you’ll notice more than just a boom or two from its direction.

The score by musical guru Trevor Rabin (who helmed the Gone In 60 Seconds music and, ironically, this film’s poor cousin, American Outlaws) is quite good, though it’s basically just a hybrid version of the scores from the most notable westerns of recent times. Still, you’ll enjoy the music pumping out while the major battles take place as that’s where it really comes into its own. Overall, a pretty good audio mix.

Extras
Someone shot all the extras that were supposed to be on this disc, leaving only a poor, lonely theatrical trailer alive. The trailer’s seems quite ill though, presented in Pan & Scan and accompanied only by a tinny Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. It’s a tiny little thing too, but I suppose that’s all that can be expected of a rental only disc practically used to test the waters for a retail release.

Texas Rangers

Overall
While you won’t waste your time taking a look at this one there’s definitely a lot of other westerns that jump right over the top of this film on their trusty steeds. As I said, I have no idea how all these big(-ish) names decided to jump on board this one and perhaps that’s the reason it works to some extent. The story is interesting enough and there’s a decent amount of action to keep you interested so it’s worth a look if you’re interested in the genre. The video and audio transfers are great but the extras department is left with just a trailer. This rental only disc might tickle your fancy but probably won’t blow your socks off.


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