You know, I always find myself tutting and shaking my head after viewing a film about the infamous outlaws, Frank & Jesse James. Not because of the quality of each film, which ranges from good to awful over the years, but because of the tired old statements about accuracy that scream out from critics both amateur and professional. I'd be screaming too if the makers of film's such as this one proclaim it to be " thee" true story of the James boys, but since no publicity about such things like "facts" was to be found, I was able to venture into a mid 90s Western with no expectation of historical accuracy and hopefully be entertained by a movie that follows more the myth of the men than the reality. And entertained I was too.
Frank & Jesse stars Rob Lowe as Jesse James and Bill Paxton as Jesse's brother Frank James. The story picks up following the Civil War where the two brothers, recently stung by the senseless murder of their younger brother, hook up with the Younger brothers - Cole Younger (played by Randy Travis) and Bob Younger (Todd Field), Bob Ford (Jim Flowers) and Charlie Ford (Alexis Arquette), Clell Miller (John Pyper-Ferguson), and Arch Clements (Nick Sadler), and start to fight back against the Chicago railroad investors. They set off on a trail of crime, robbing banks, trains and enacting stage holdups whilst evading the dogged pursuit of Allan Pinkerton (William Atherton) and his detective agency. But as Jesse's fame grows on account of an adoring public led by the press imagery of the man, so the gang get closer to being caught, or worse still, killed.
Directed by Robert Boris, Frank & Jesse was a limited release in 1994/95. Tho obviously a TV movie In all but name, it does however boast a more than admirable cast. Lowe, in spite of looking uncomfortable on a horse, looks the part and proves to be a good casting choice. His cocksure way about him fits nicely into Jesse's shoes, whilst the goatee beard steers one away from seeing the "pretty boy" actor instead of the character. Paxton is always solid and reliable, and no change here, with one naked bathroom scene an absolute delight. It's a scene that sees Frank meet his future wife Annie, here played by Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, and Western fans will note that that pairing sees the actors re-teamed after appearing together in Tombstone 1993. Of the others, Travis stands out as the most believable of the support rogues, while Nick Sadler quietly gives the best performance in the movie as Arch Clements. A fine young actor who can be checked out in the likes of Twister, Disclosure, Scent of A Woman, & Mobsters.
The writing is safe, if a touch too cliché riddled and hurt by some dialogue that doesn't belong in the time, while the action scenes are more than up to scratch. Notably a shoot out at Northfield, Minnesota, that's as good as anything in the afore mentioned Tombstone. Walt Lloyd does a good job with the cinematography, some nice hues used for the town sequences, tho your eyes may be dragged away by Mark McKenzie's score as it is unable to fully grasp the mood at times. But by and large there's more than enough here for the Western fan to enjoy. Unless of course you need a wall to wall history lesson in your Oaters that is? 6.5/10
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