Echo Bridge Home Entertainment // 2001 // 90 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // May 26th, 2011
Before there was law, there were...the Rangers.
As the Civil War comes to a close the state of Texas is left in dilly of a pickle -- murderous bandits have started to overrun the state and terrorize the local citizens. Enter the heroic Texas Rangers, led by the tough-as-a-cactus-hide Leander McNally (Dylan McDermott, TV's Dark Blue). With the help of young Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek), whose family was killed by the vile John King Fisher (Alfred Molina, Nothing Like the Holidays) and his band of deadly outlaws, as well as a stable full of young whippersnappers itching for justice, this band of lawful peacekeepers are about to dole out some southern justice or die trying.
They always come in twos, don't they? First there was Armageddon and Deep Impact. Then came Volcano and Dante's Peak. Finally, of course, 2001's showdown of American Outlaws vs. Texas Rangers. Yes, Hollywood essentially made two of the same movie with a bunch of hot up-and-coming actors who wear ten gallon hats and ride horses into the sunset. So ridiculous is Texas Rangers that ten years later the whole thing looks like it's just a bunch of late 1990s stars playing with toy guns and preening for the camera. I'm sure the filmmakers -- including B-level director Steve Miner (Friday the 13th Part 2, Lake Placid) -- were trying to make a deeply affecting morality tale about the wild west and what it's like to protect the innocent with hard cold steel. What they did is create a film that unfolds as slowly as molasses running backwards in a Minnesota ice storm.
Texas Rangers just sort of sits on the screen and dies the slow, painful death of a town drunk who had an unfortunate run in with a rattlesnake. Zero actors walk away from this movie unscathed and almost no one looks very 'home on the range'. Texas Rangers was made at the peak of James Van Der Beek's Dawson's Creek fame, and his movie choices ended up being dubious at best. Sometimes Hollywood gives TV actors a shot at making it big on the silver screen, and for Van Der Beek ("Shooting bad guys in West Texas may have been the opportunity of your lifetime, but I don't. Want. Your. Life!") that door effectively slammed shut with the one two punch of Texas Rangers and the equally terrible sex comedy/bizzaro drama Rules of Attraction. I guess that's just sometimes how the fame cookie crumbles.
Hopefully Van Der Beek took solace in the fact that he wasn't the only one who looked ill at ease in John Wayne territory. R&B teen sensation Usher Raymond (usually just known by the single name 'Usher') seems about as out of place in a western as Ashton Kutcher does wearing spurs (although Demi Moore may strongly disagree). The usually dependable Alfred Molina's chunky presence is hardly threatening as the villainous John King Fisher; he spends much of the time looking like he's trying to find the craft services table. Luckily, Molina would redeem himself quickly in the role of Spider-Man's nemesis Doctor Octopus only a few short years later. The rest of the actors serve the purpose of being A.) angry, grizzled cowboys (Robert "Don't Call Me The Terminator" Patrick, Randy "Forever and Ever, Amen" Travis, Vincent "Bad Career Choices" Spano) or B.) plain, attractive love interests (Rachel Leigh Cook, She's All That). There isn't much of an in-between here, folks.
The whole watered down PG-13 package is wrapped in generic gunfights that serve little than to show off firearms being shot and people being blasted in the chest by a shotgun (clearly the only place people got hit during the times of cowboys and Indians). The action is professionally constructed and executed, but so are prison electric chairs, yet I don't want to sit in one of those for an extended period of time. The plot line is a simple point A to point B -- justice needs to be served, and these boys are the ones who are going to be doing the servin'. This is as a simple a story as they come, and one that has been told in dozens of other westerns by far more talented people than the guy who created Punk'd.
Some movies I can recommend as brain numbing Saturday night fare; Texas Rangers isn't even able to pass that low of a standard It's just an inert, needless western that ends up being a minute footnote on a lot of talented actor's resumes. So forgettable is this movie that I had forgotten I'd seen it upon its initial release ten years ago. I have the feeling in another ten years I'll have forgotten every frame of this movie's run time. And so will everyone else.
Texas Rangers is presented in 1.78:1 full high definition 1080i. Echo Bridge isn't known as distributor of 'high quality' transfers (for proof, look at the abysmal image quality of the recently released From Dusk Till Dawn or Halloween H20 Blu-rays). The transfer for Texas Rangers seems to at least be a slight step up than those two failures -- while this image doesn't come close to popping off the screen (why it's not in 1080p is far beyond me), the picture at least retains a slightly sharper clarity than the previous DVD release. The colors are often drably rendered; then again, westerns rarely lend themselves to a multitude of shiny colors. My biggest complain is the moments that fluctuate between a sharply rendered image and a soft, almost out of focus picture. The transfer for Texas Rangers is better than I anticipated, but I wouldn't consider it to be revelatory.
The soundtrack is a different matter. In this day and age there is no reason why a major studio release is only given a 2.0 sound mix. While I'm not a fan of Texas Rangers, this is still a shameless soundtrack and Echo Bridge should be ashamed to include it on any hi-def release. You can hear the dialogue, music and effects but little else -- this is a rather uninspired soundtrack that should have been retooled for the Blu-ray format. No alternate subtitles or soundtracks are available on this disc.
Considering the studio that released this disc, it should come as no surprise that it doesn't include any extra features.
This movie should be put in front of a firing squad.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080i)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13