Paramount // 1994 // 1440 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Corupe (Retired) // March 7th, 2007
Eyes of a Ranger.
At the height of his stardom in the mid-1980s, Chuck Norris had built himself into one of B-moviedom's most dependable action heroes -- crushing communists in Invasion U.S.A, getting revenge for Vietnam in Missing in Action, and tackling evil terrorists in The Delta Force. By the end of the 1990s, though, Norris's Cannon Films-funded, Uzi-led romp through low-budget film was quickly running out of ammo.
For the 53-year-old martial arts star, Walker, Texas Ranger was something of a godsend. A weekly action series starring Norris as a crime-busting Texas Ranger-cowboy hat and all- the show single-handedly reinvigorated Norris' career and solidified his reputation amongst fans both new and old. There's no denying that Walker, Texas Ranger was far from the most compelling or artistically accomplished show on television, but did it really matter? In an era where quick-witted police procedurals had begun to dominate the prime-time schedule, audiences couldn't get enough of watching Chuck Norris stare down sadistic criminals before forcefully driving his cowboy boots into their jaws. And that's just what he did, week after week, for an amazing nine seasons.
Cordell Walker (Chuck Norris, The Octagon) is the tough, roundhouse-delivering pride of the Texas Rangers, a centuries-old law enforcement agency. He serves justice along with his partner, former football player James Trivette (Clarence Gilyard, Matlock), his oft-kidnapped love interest Assistant District Attorney Alex Cahill (Sheree J. Wilson, Dallas), and retired ranger C.D. Parker (Noble Willingham, Good Morning, Vietnam), who dispenses sage-like advice from behind the counter at C.D.'s Bar & Grill and occasionally springs into action himself. While discharging his duties, Walker comes up against a veritable army of reprehensible criminals including drug dealers, adult filmmakers, contract killers, and arms merchants. After tracking down each moustache-twirling villain, Walker metes out two-fisted (or more likely, two-footed) justice in a decisive brawl.
Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete Second Season collects all 23 jaw-shattering episodes (four of them double-length two-parters) from the show's sophomore season on seven DVDs.
There were some important and positive character changes in store for Walker as he began his second season of Western/martial arts crime-busting on CBS. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the show's brand-new opening, which pictured Norris as a Paul Bunyan-esque giant straddling the entire city of Dallas in his duster and cowboy hat, with a shotgun slung over his shoulder. Later accompanied by the Norris-sung theme, "Eyes of the Ranger," it clearly marked the beginning of a new mythos for Walker, one that further aligned itself with the peacekeeping, western hero tradition of Clint Eastwood and John Wayne as opposed to portraying Norris as "just another" TV cop out to bust slimy perps. It was an important step for Walker, Texas Ranger, which really turned Norris's character from a highly moral man with complete faith in the justice system to a larger-than-life figure who saves the town and then slowly saunters off into the sunset without expecting a word of thanks.
Take, for example, the episode "'Til Death Do Us Part," in which Walker saves a little girl from a car teetering over the edge of a bridge, before plunging into the riverbed himself. In the hospital, in a life-threatening coma, Walker is visited by Alex, Trivette, and C.D., who all wax poetic about his amazing past feats. Sounds like a clip show? Well, it's not -- these memories are from events that all take place before the first season supposedly started, and they begin to cast Walker in an entirely new light. Now we learn that Walker saved Trivette's life before they even knew each other -- he mystically appeared, beating up four guys with baseball bats that were attacking the then-rookie cop during a riot. Later, he single-handedly caught five cattle rustlers when C.D. was injured on a mission and absolutely charmed D.A. Cahill, even though she refused to believe that he caught a gang of eight bank robbers alone, as he testified on the witness stand. These superhuman deeds show Walker not to be a somewhat conflicted man as he was in the first season, but a legendary hero, who really isn't afraid of anything.
In keeping with this character evolution, there is also a noticeable shift away from portraying Walker's home life, which had previously been used to humanize him. In this season, we see little of the ranger's downtime between using sneering cattle rustlers as human punching bags. Floyd "Red Crow" Westerman, who portrayed Walker's Uncle Ray throughout the first season, has disappeared except for a few hazy flashback sequences to Walker's youth, in which the character is clearly portrayed by a much younger actor. This is quite a welcome change for the series, which allows the episodes to focus more on building the characters as they thwart the bad guy's criminal plots, as opposed to occasionally pausing for melodramatic soap operatics between Alex Cahill and Walker as they sit around the homestead.
The cops 'n' robbers meat of Walker, Texas Ranger didn't really experience any changes, however. Each action-packed, simplistically plotted episode continues to resemble a lesser Chuck Norris movie from the 1980s, only compressed down to 45 minutes and filmed with a tenth of the budget. Though the violence has been noticeably toned down a bit from the first season, you still get all the roundhouse kicks, throat-punches, and exploding boats you expect from this series. Walker even manages to blow away a few attacking goons -- but not until they shoot first, of course.
Despite being just a sidekick, Clarence Gilyard continues to steal scenes from Norris as the determined and fast-talking Jimmy Trivette, giving the show some much-needed humor and contrast to Norris' po-faced, wooden performance. The only notable guest stars this season are Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) and Remington Steele's Doris Roberts, who both appear in "The Big Bingo Bamboozle" as timid witnesses to a bingo scam. To be fair, however, it wasn't until the next season that bigger-name actors were attracted to the show, once it had been certified as a hit.
Unfortunately, Paramount's has done little to upgrade their presentation of Walker, Texas Ranger since the first season's decidedly average release. Once again, the included episodes are weak and pixilated, with rather dull colors. The stereo 2.0 soundtrack is pretty typical for a TV show, cramped and slightly muffled, rendering more dynamic sound effects rather flat. It's hard to complain about 24 hours of non-stop Norris action, but once again, fans have been shafted in the presentation and extras department.
Sure, Walker, Texas Ranger may not be a particularly smart show, but it ultimately delivers on what it promises, making it a guilty pleasure for many. Unfortunately, Paramount has served up another disappointingly bare-bones, barely passable presentation of the show, which means that only seasoned Walker, Texas Ranger fans will want to bother picking up this cheesy slice of comfort TV.
Review content copyright © 2007 Paul Corupe; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1440 Minutes
Release Year: 1994
MPAA Rating: Not Rated