Lionsgate // 2011 // 83 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Josh Rode (Retired) // July 15th, 2011
A lawless territory ruled by outlaws. One man will take them down.
I...I don't even know where to begin to talk about The Way of the West.
Oh, here's something: it's also known as The Mountie.
Okay, good, what else can I say?
I could talk about the plot. No, the plot is incoherent: something about a Mountie out patrolling the Yukon to find a space to build a new fort when he runs across a town made of very clean, white tents whose inhabitants are supposed to be growing opium for a Russian gang but stop to pan for gold instead. Oh, and there's a young woman (Jessica Paré, Stardom) who scarred her face so men won't be attracted to her. And a little girl whose life's goal is apparently to become a sniper. We meet her when she's attempting to shoot the noose of a man who was hanged, although we never find out why he was really hanged, nor why the girl was trying to shoot him down. At first I assumed he was her father, but later the priest ends up being her father. I think. The editing makes each scene feel like a separate vignette instead of a piece of a whole and it's really hard to get a handle on just why everyone is...well, how they are.
I suppose we should start with the Mountie. Andrew W. Walker, whose biggest claim to fame might be as a role player in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, does his very best Clint Eastwood impression, speaking his lines through gritted teeth and acting like he can take on any amount of bad guys. And in truth, his Wade Grayling is portrayed to be very good with a rifle, as witnessed by the fact that he is able to kill an entire kitchen-sized room full of bad guys whilst suffering nary a scratch, despite the fact that every one of them had a pistol trained on him the moment he stepped through the door and just stood there in front of them. Seriously, he gunned down three of them before taking a step. They all shot first and somehow missed at a range of, oh, maybe ten feet, max. Apparently Wade is a distant relative of Vash the Stampede. When it comes to fisticuffs, however, he is hopelessly inept. He also stands out like the proverbial sore thumb in his bright red coat. He tries to sneak around but only in a film like this would he be able to get away with stealth.
So, what are the motives for the actions? Sure, it's great that he taught the five townsfolk to boil their water so they'd stop getting sick and it was very gentlemanly to stand up for the girl who was being manhandled, but did he have to burn the opium crop? As far as he was aware, it was the settlement's only source of income.
The bad guys are also a confusing lot. First there's a priest who apparently runs the town with an iron fist. He is very distrusting of Wade, but when the Russian gang moves in he becomes something of a sycophant. The gang really doesn't want Wade around but although they beat him senseless (and therefore defenseless), for unknown reasons they don't just kill him. Their primary motivation appears to be picking up opium to sell down river, but since that wasn't illegal in Canada in the 1800s, there really is no need for any of the violence that comes about. In fact, Wade himself kind of creates the violence that we're supposed to consider him a hero for stopping. And it's great of him to drop a stick of dynamite into the half-built church knowing that the scarred girl is being held hostage in there.
Anyway, enough of trying to make sense of the story. The 2.35:1 transfer does a great job of making the grand spectacle of the Canadian Rockies and the aurora borealis look tiny and dull, while the horribly intrusive soundtrack Hoovers up any dramatic crumbs the story might have accidentally dropped. The extras include interviews with many of the cast members who say very little of note, although we do find out they really liked the scenery. There are also two alternate opening scenes. The first depicts Wade riding...and riding...and riding...and riding. I nodded off. I'm surprised they didn't keep it. The second opening isn't a new scene at all; it's a scene they ended up putting in the middle of the film to try to justify Wade's burning of the town's cash crop and ends with the aforementioned shootout in the small room. According to the scene, Wade is opposed to opium because he accidentally shot a German shepherd during the firefight and felt so guilty about it that he stopped smoking opium and now leads a one-man crusade against its evils. Or not; that would mean The Way of the West is actually about something, and there's certainly no evidence of that being the case.
Oh, one last thing: the cover is totally misleading. The wooden buildings and the cowboys depicted on the cover must be from some other film, 'cause they sure weren't in this one. If you get a chance, check out the picture on the back that looks like a cavalry unit riding from a small military camp. That's the actual town.
Guilty. Also, please note that the court does not in any way condone the
growing, transporting, selling, or use of opium or any other illegal drug. Court
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 83 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R