Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 1997 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // May 4th, 2011
In 1997 Michael Dudikoff, the American Ninja himself, traded in his shuriken for a six shooter. This time he was taking aim at Randy Travis.
After Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven brought the western genre back to the public eye in the '90s, we got a few other mainstream movies following suit: Tombstone, and Wyatt Earp for example. But the direct to video crowd also jumped into the action, and this is where Deadly Shooter aka The Shooter comes in.
Directed by low budget veteran, Fred Olen Ray (who brought us a ton of movies with the word "bikini" in the title), this looks to be the only Western in his filmography. Did the genre not appeal to him, or did he realize that Michael Dudikoff wouldn't look good in a bikini?
The movie opens as Michael Atherton (Dudikoff) happens upon a horrific scene. A half naked woman is being whipped mercilessly by a man while his cronies leer and point. Michael steps in, shooting the bastards and saving the woman, who turns out to be prostitute named Wendy (Valerie Wildman, Cast Away).
Unfortunately the merciless whipper was the son of Jerry Krants (William Smith, Conan the Barbarian) leader of the notorious Krants gang. Once Jerry hears about his son's death he vows vengeance. Meanwhile the small town that Atherton takes Wendy back to begs for his help. They know Krants will want revenge and fury will likely fall on them, especially if Atherton passes on through. The town is willing to pay handsomely for his protection. But a gambler named Kyle (Randy Travis, Texas Rangers) advises Atherton against it. Before Atherton can make a decision Krants and his boys arrive and all hell breaks loose. When the bullets stop flying and the bodies stop falling who will be named the deadly shooter?
At the heart of the story, you've got the basics of a good western. The location shooting is handled well (if a bit familiar to anyone who watched Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman). Some of the action is solid. The character tropes are in place. You've got the stoic gunman, the hooker with the heart of gold, and the gambler who's loyalties are always in flux. But the final result never really gels.
Part of the problem is Dudikoff. His laconic attempt at Clint Eastwood comes across as wooden and bored. He has a couple of good moments, and moves well during the explosive shootout in the town against Krants' gang, but his romance with Wendy never ignites and his main showdown against the villains lacks any kind of investment.
On the flip side is Smith as the ranting and raving Krants. He sounds like Jack Palance after gargling with nitric acid. His first scenes are actually pretty good, as he simmers and scowls in a sinister way. But when he reaches the town he goes over the top and chews all the scenery he can get his hands on. I ended up chuckling whenever he was shouting his lines.
If anyone looks like he's having a good time it's country star Randy Travis. He's got the best part, playing the scoundrel manipulating both sides and waiting to see who wins. He's got his own agenda and as he plays his hands the plot becomes more interesting. It's a solid performance that helps the later half of the film quite a bit.
Still after the shootout in the town, the movie slows down and never picks up momentum. There are essentially two climaxes to the film but neither one generates any tension. Deadly Shooter fizzles in its conclusion, and it's a shame, because the core story could have turned out something fun.
Vivendi offers this up as part of their "Wild West" collection. But that doesn't mean they cleaned up the print or sound. It's not a bad looking film, but you can tell it was shot in the '90s for the direct to video market. The stereo sound is functional and clear. No extras on this one pardner.
I recently caught the Sam Elliott made-for-TV flick The Quick and the Dead and enjoyed it quite a bit. It had a simple story told well and had a cast that understood the roles. That's what Deadly Shooter should have been like. I'd pick up Sam's flick before this one any day.
Everyone is guilty in this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Rated R