12 December 2001 | artzau
The Western is a dying genre and it never ceases to amaze me that it is so. It is being displaced by the cops 'n robbers, grisly hero shoot'em-ups and a variety of other overly violent superhero vehicles. As a kid, I grew up on Westerns and could not get enough of them. The bad guys always wore black hats and the hero, like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and others always wore the white hats coming to the rescue of the ladies at the last moment. Villains were slime-suckers and deserved all they got. I mean, who could even feel a twinge of regret when Joel McCrea shot Brian Donlevy in the Virginian after he engineered Sonny Tufts getting hung? Well, this film loosely based on a Louis L'Amour story takes us back to a time when heros were just that: bigger than life figures that placed honor, decency and the love of their horses above the petty greed and avarice of the weaker villains. Selleck is outstanding in this role as Rafe Covington who comes to "take care of" the widow of a friend (whom we later learn he knew but a short time). What commitment! Now, we get some growls here from the peanut gallery from some who fail to understand the archetype the Western Hero is based on and even one faithful Louis L'Amour fan who cries foul at the departures from the original. OK. We can let that go. Someone observes that Selleck leaving his Magnum PI role is a "natural" for Westerns. I second that! He does. His pals, veteran character actor Wilfred Brimley, Kane and O'Hara add texture to the hero role while the villains are outright scumbags, especially usual good-guy Mark Harmon and refugee from the rapture, Brad Johnson (glad he made it out of the apocalypse). These baddies are REAL bad. Cheap made-for-TV has-been Western flick? No way, José. This is FINE entertainment and I wish they had a lot more of it.