Judge Joel Pearce is drawing a bead on ya.
The ultimate showdown is coming…
But you won't find it here. While many people have mourned the death of the western, it only takes watching a few television crapfests like this to realize why we don't see that many these days. We haven't seen much development in the genre for decades, and maybe that's okay. Either way, Lone Rider certainly doesn't have any new tricks up its sleeve.
The plot is woefully familiar. Bobby (Lou Diamond Phillips, Bats) arrives home after fighting in the Indian War to find his town being bought up by his childhood friend, Stu (Vincent Spano, Alive). Turns out Stu's been trying to take over the whole city with bribes, sneakiness, or force in an attempt to overcompensate for his feelings of inadequacy during his childhood. Of course, Bobby's childhood—and inappropriately named—girlfriend Constance (Cynthia Preston, The Event) has also married Stu, creating feelings of mixed loyalty in all involved.
I've never been a huge fan of westerns, and going through films like Lone Rider doesn't make me any more enthusiastic. In fact, the only inventive aspects of this film are steps backwards, not forward. There are almost no shootouts in the film, and the ones that exist are either not real shootouts, or they are shot so confusingly that you can't tell what's happening. The whole production has that flat shot-on-video look that makes the wide open plains seem puny, and it all lacks the passion and drive that has always marked the genre.
This weakness in character runs through the whole production. There is little to distinguish Bobby from the pack. After all, he's a military man who doesn't want violence but finds himself thrust back into that world. See any other western for examples of this. The real problem is with Stu, who lands somewhere in between sociopath and whiny teenager. He is always too childish to seem truly threatening, but too cruel to gain our sympathy. The other major issue is with the sheriff, who runs the town much like a small farming community in contemporary Vermont. Since when did sheriffs in westerns care about due process and evidence collection? Who is watching over his shoulder to make sure he fills out all of his reports? The lawful nature of the town slows the whole film to a crawl, as we wait for something—anything—to happen.
When it finally does happen, it plays out so obviously that it hardly seems worth the effort. There is nothing in Lone Rider that we haven't seen done so much better in the past. I realize that some people are starving for a chance to see another great western, but it's insulting that fans should be stuck watching this drivel, especially when films like The Proposition and 3:10 to Yuma come along. While I realize that Lone Rider came out to satiate Sunday afternoon levels of boredom, I feel genuine pity for anyone who would rather sit through this without complaint.
In technical terms, Lone Rider offers exactly what you'd expect from a recent TV movie. It's in anamorphic widescreen, and there are no visible flaws in the video transfer. Again, the problem is with the blandness of the video source. The audio transfer is equally bland, offering up a few bangs during the gunfights, but never doing anything to distinguish itself. The only special feature is a collection of three cast interviews, but they have little to talk about except a bland overview of their characters' motivations.
Let's face it: the western has had a glorious 100 year cinematic tradition. There are countless westerns that have more to offer than Lone Rider, and unless you've seen and enjoyed every one of them, I can't recommend it in good conscience.
Lone Rider is guilty, and hereby sentenced to 60 hours of community service. It's not really worth any more than that.
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