A sprawling, star-studded horse opera, LARRY MCMURTRY'S STREETS OF LAREDO, the sequel to LONESOME DOVE (1989), has more to do with the reality of 1990s TV than with the myth of the American West.
Pea Parker (Sam Shepard), a homesteader, gets word from Captain Woodrow Call (James Garner), a bounty hunter and former Texas Ranger; Call wants Parker's help tracking a sadistic young bandit, Joey Garza (Alexis Cruz), responsible for a string of bloody train robberies. Parker, loath to leave his
wife Lorena (Sissy Spacek), an ex-hooker turned schoolmarm, and family, sets out with misgivings.
Call rides with Ted Plunkert (Tristan Tait), a young deputy, and Ben Brookshire (Charles Martin Smith), a railroad clerk from back east, the quintessential tenderfoot. Parker is supposed to catch up with them. Another robbery leads Call to believe that Mox Mox (Kevin Conway), a bandit he'd thought
dead, is on the warpath also.
Maria Garza (Sonia Braga), Joey's mother, a healer, midwife, and earth mother personified, hears about Call's plans and rides to warn her wayward son. Arriving in Crow Town, a bandit hangout, she confronts John Wesley Hardin (Randy Quaid), proving her grit. She warns Joey, who goes off to hunt
Call and company.
Pea, riding to catch up with Call, meets Famous Shoes (Wes Studi), an Indian, who agrees to help track Joey if Lorena will teach him to "follow tracks in books." In Fort Stockton, Pea and Famous Shoes are arrested by evil Sheriff Doniphan (David S. Cass Sr.), who plans to hang Famous Shoes on a
trumped-up charge. Call shows up and springs them.
Back home, Lorena hears about Mox Mox's reappearance (he tried to burn her in LONESOME DOVE). She sends the kids up north, and rides off to find Pea and warn him. In Laredo she meets Call, who has left his posse to track Mox Mox, and persuades him to let her go back with him. Call fatally wounds
Mox Mox, but later Joey wounds Call badly, and Lorena has to amputate his leg in the desert.
Joey harasses the posse, kills Ben, and wounds Pea, who wounds him back. Joey seeks shelter at his mother's, where he finds Lorena and Call. He drowns his half-brother and tries to drown his blind sister in the river; Maria manages to stop him but he stabs her fatally before dying. With her last
breath, Maria asks Lorena to care for her remaining children.
Famous Shoes leads Lori to Pea, and he, Call, Lori, and Maria's kids head north to pick up the other children, and they all end up back home--even Famous Shoes. As we leave the happy extended family, Call is reading fairy tales to the enraptured blind girl, whose education he has arranged for.
If this all sounds like a string of cliches, it is. STREETS is a miniseries and a sequel, and neither category is strong on originality. It manages to be both slick and earnest: a formula for melodrama. There's a lot of killing in STREETS, but there's no moral reason for it, no sense of loss, and
no vengeful satisfaction. Sex and romance are barely present--the closest we get is when Lorena cuts off Call's leg after mutual demonstrations of selflessness: Sissy Spacek bounces around, sawing away, with a look of agony easily mistaken for ecstasy.
The acting, for the most part, is uninspired. This is due to a screenplay which tries to have a little something for everyone, and ends up lacking direction. Randy Quaid plays the character John Wesley Hardin with a demonic intensity which outshines the rest of the cast. Ben Brookshire, a
sympathetic character, dies stupidly, never fulfilling the expectation of quiet heroism his role generates. Mox Mox is barely present, but leeringly evil and craven in his one big scene.
Sets, costumes, and direction are workmanlike. Wounds heal remarkably fast, and folks stay clean and well-groomed despite trying circumstances. The score beats the Streets of Laredo theme into the ground (Laredo is of minor significance otherwise).
Almost gripping and somewhat entertaining, LARRY MCMURTRY'S STREETS OF LAREDO, like too much TV fare, is best watched while doing something else. LONESOME DOVE fans will, no doubt, disagree. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: A sprawling, star-studded horse opera, LARRY MCMURTRY'S STREETS OF LAREDO, the sequel to LONESOME DOVE (1989), has more to do with the reality of 1990s TV than with the myth of the American West. Pea Parker (Sam Shepard), a homesteader, gets word from Cap… (more)