Texas Rangers

This old-fashioned Western about the glory years of the Texas Rangers, cast with fresh-faced, telegenic young actors whose performances range from adequate to awful, is undermined by a serious lack of true grit. 1875: Ten years after the end of the Civil War, Texas has become a war zone. In the absence of organized law enforcement — the Texas Rangers...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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This old-fashioned Western about the glory years of the Texas Rangers, cast with fresh-faced, telegenic young actors whose performances range from adequate to awful, is undermined by a serious lack of true grit. 1875: Ten years after the end of the Civil War, Texas has become a war zone. In the absence of organized law enforcement — the Texas Rangers having disbanded so its members could fight for the Confederacy — Mexican bandits and American opportunists have joined forces to steal cattle and rob, rape and murder ranchers and the citizens of frontier towns. Philadelphia-born Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek) loses his family in one such raid, and enlists with the newly re-formed Rangers, under the command of charismatic, tubercular ex-preacher Leander McNelly (Dylan McDermott), who lost his family to war and knows his days are numbered. His right hand men, Sgt. Armstrong (Robert Patrick) and Frank Bones (Randy Travis, doing an ill-advised imitation of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name), are seasoned law officers, but most of the new recruits are untried boys. McNelly trains them on the trail as the Rangers pursue ruthless bandit John King Fisher (Alfred Molina, whose pop-eyed histrionics would have been better suited to a silent film) and his army of bad, bad men. This is a movie that would actually benefit from being longer, given the number of featured characters — including Arkansas farmer George Durham (Ashton Kutcher), dispossessed African American Randolph Douglas Scipio (Usher Raymond) and stuttering sharpshooter Sam (Matt Keeslar) — and the complicated changes they undergo. Because there's so little time, the disclosure of their conflicts and development feels painfully schematic: The black man saves the racist, the callow youth becomes a leader, the idealist learns he wasn't born to kill plus the inevitable worm-turns. But the film's real problem is the weight of film history: It's hard to turn back the clock on the dirty, desperate, blood-spattered likes of THE WILD BUNCH (1969), Sergio Leone's nihilistic westerns or even the darkly elegaic UNFORGIVEN (1992). This vision of the West is much too clean (from the casts' gleaming teeth to the modest bloodshed) and a little too idealistic. The film attempts to address issues of racism, carpet-bagging and the ever-present danger that frontier justice will degenerate into sheer bloody mindedness, but again, there's insufficient time to dramatize the complicated social and historical forces that drove the men who became Rangers.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: This old-fashioned Western about the glory years of the Texas Rangers, cast with fresh-faced, telegenic young actors whose performances range from adequate to awful, is undermined by a serious lack of true grit. 1875: Ten years after the end of the Civil W… (more)

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