Case Number 14048: Small Claims Court


Genius Products // 2008 // 79 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // July 11th, 2008

The Charge

A vow to even the score.

The Case

In this made-for-TV Western, Luke Perry (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) headlines as Sheriff Matt Austin, a broken-down lawman who is cursed to wander the frontier, searching for the convict that murdered his wife and child. His quest brings him to a small jerkwater town, where he finds his prey. But a shootout and an accidental shooting binds his fate to that of a family's, a family desperately trying to hang onto their land while the corrupt authorities of the town plot to steal it.

These jackasses will stop at nothing to secure this prime real estate, their favorite tactic being the midnight whoopin' and hollerin' raid followed by gunfire and harsh language. The pressure is on Austin to build up the ranch's defenses and recruit additional defenders for the looming assault. C. Thomas Howell co-stars as the main bad guy who's just asking for a cattle prod enema.

Fans of low-impact Westerns could do a lot worse than this humble offering. It's a broadcast production, so you're looking at a relatively sanitized experience, but there's enough cool stuff to be found to make it worth your while.

Start with Luke Perry, who might have found the angle to resurrect his acting career -- portraying heroic gunslingers in made-for-TV movies. The guy brings a gritty, gruff demeanor to his hero, handles the guns well, is intimidating when needed and grows a beard to be reckoned with. The shooting accident that claims an innocent man's life, which Austin is responsible for, is a nifty plot twist, and Perry does a fine job grappling with the guilt. I also liked the allegiance he was forced to form with the victim's family, partly because of atonement and partly because he gets a crack at hollowing out the skull of the guy who killed his family. C. Thomas Howell fulfills the necessary requirement of crafting a heavy that you want to get shot in balls, though he tends to overdo it with his grand, sinister pronouncements.

All of this well and good, but the real meat of the film is the build-up and eventual execution of the bullet-riddled finale and the face-off between Austin and Tate, his nemesis. Both elements are done decently, but, unfortunately, not well enough to earn the accolades necessary to mandate a viewing. The shoot-out consists of a bunch of bad guys riding horses in a circle while the good guys blast them from concealed positions. And then they stop. And then there's a stand-off between Austin and Tate and that's resolved with little suspense and fanfare. For the big sequences the entire film was essentially building towards, they were a letdown.

That's all there is to say about The Pledge. A serviceable if unexceptional Western featuring a hip, well-bearded Luke Perry and an anti-climactic action culmination.

The DVD is no-frills: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, 5.1 surround and nothing else.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Genius Products
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* None

Running Time: 79 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb