Our review of Texas Rangers (Blu-ray), published May 26th, 2011, is also available.
Before there was law, there were the Rangers!
For only the briefest of moments, the teen western came back into style. This minute blip on the history of cinema started with American Outlaws and pretty well ended with Texas Rangers. I say that this phenomena was a "blip" because neither of these rootin' tootin' cowboy movies did well upon their initial theatrical run. Could it be that audiences just weren't ready for a relapse of the Young Guns craze? Or maybe they just couldn't have cared less to see James Van Der Beek (Dawson's Creek) and Ashton Kutcher (That '70s Show, Dude, Where's My Car?) as the long arms of the law. I guess we'll never know for sure. What I do know is that Texas Rangers is now on DVD care of Dimension Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
During the Civil War a rag tag group of cowboys (led by Dylan McDermott, TV's The Practice) come together to reform the right and mighty Texas Rangers to fight injustice wherever it may dwell. This group includes the young Dunnison (Van Der Beek), the dim George Durham (Kutcher), cock sure Scipio (R&B sensation Usher Raymond), Sgt. Armstrong (Robert Patrick, The X-Files), and the silent but deadly Frank Bones (country crooner Randy Travis), among others. Their main target is the outlaw John King Fischer (Alfred Molina, The Imposters, Chocolat), a dastardly villain who likes to shoot innocent people and sneer a lot. With their guns drawn and boots strapped, these cowboys will ride the dusty trails in search of the only thing that keeps them goin' 'till dawn…THE LAW!
What can you say about a teenage western that seems to encompass the entire spectrum of Hollywood's up-and-coming stars? All this movie needed was Freddie Prinze, Jr. and the cast from Party of Five to make a complete circle. And it's all wrapped up in a tidy red bow by director Steve Miner, no stranger to teenage crap seeing as he's the same guy who directed Friday The 13th Part 2 and Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later.
I was sorely disappointed at how boring Texas Rangers ended up being, shocking since I really enjoyed American Outlaws. Now don't get me wrong. It's not like American Outlaws was the snowy white peak of American cinema. However, it was fun in a turn-off-your-brain and enjoy the ride kind of way. The cast was goofy and funny while and the action plentiful and rollicking. The same can't be said for Texas Rangers. Sure, there are a few well staged shoot-outs, and many, many, many…many sequences of guys riding on their horses. But multiple shots of saddle riders does not a movie make. You need to have characters and a story—and Texas Rangers has neither. The story, as it stands, is as bland as bland can be—the seekers of right and good must hunt down a bad, baaaaaad bandito and show him that you can't mess with innocent townspeople. Blah. This movie's screenplay is the equivalent of white rice.
Another flub the film makes is that you can't take a bunch of actors well-known for their TV roles and try to tell us they're now all tough hombre cowboys. Did anyone watching this movie believe that the bubble-headed Ashton Kutcher could even hold a gun, much less fire one? Or that the ultra-pretty singer Raymond Usher would last more than 48 seconds out in a sweltering 1800s desert? And most of all…that James Van Der Beek, Mr. Dawson's Creek, could ever in a million years be convincing as a cowboy? Through the entire movie Van Der Beek plays the exact same character as in his hit WB TV show…only now he has some stubble (ooooohhh…he's such a tough guy!) and wears a ten-gallon hat. Cap it off with Randy Travis as a rough rider and you've got the most unbelievable band of rough riders this side of Back to the Future Part III. The only person who comes out of this film unscathed is…well, actually no one comes out unscathed. This was a bad career move on everyone's part. And if there was a sole reason why I kept watching Texas Rangers, it was to see the darling Rachel Lee Cook (She's All That, Get Carter) as a cute ranch girl. Sadly, she trots on screen for what seems to be a grand total of five minutes.
If you're in the mood for a western with actors who can't legally drink, I'd go with the Young Guns series or the far superior American Outlaws. Watching Texas Rangers is like finding a snake in your boot: unpleasant and very painful.
Texas Rangers is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Say what you will about the film (and I certainly welcome those comments), this is a fine looking presentation by Dimension. With vivid colors and solid black levels, this is a very eye pleasing transfer that shows only the slightest amount of imperfection (a few scenes of grain and edge enhancement throughout). Overall, I was more than happy with the quality of this picture.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. Much like the video presentation, this soundtrack is also exceptionally well done. There are some great moments of directional use in this mix, especially during the sound heavy gunfights and Trevor Rabin's lush score. No distortion was heard during any of the dialogue, effects, or music, and the sound field was very full and bombastic. Also included on this disc are English closed captions.
The extra features for Texas Rangers are thankfully rather slim. First up is "Behind The Badge," a short, 12-minute making-of featurette with the cast and crew pontificating on a movie that really needs no pontification. Also included is a collection of storyboards (with an alternate opening sequence), a small gallery of production stills, and a theatrical trailer for the film.
There's a reason this movie sat on studio shelves for a few years and then was released with little-to-no fanfare. While the production values and cinematography good, this doesn't make up for the fact that the movie just ain't worth your time.
Texas Rangers is sentenced to death by a hangin'!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
• "Behind The Badge" Featurette
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