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TV Reviews : ‘Avenging Angel’: Mormon Western

At its core, TNT’s “The Avenging Angel” is an old-fashioned Western that revisits a familiar theme: the good-hearted gunfighter who kills only to protect those he loves and the Christian values they symbolize.

Clearly it’s best not to think too deeply about the issue of justifiable violence that this sprightly paced work casually explores. “The Avenging Angel” tends to exploit mayhem even as it halfheartedly condemns it. Despite its philosophical undertones, this TV movie is primarily designed to be good, escapist fun--a goal it achieves with moderate success.

Tom Berenger stars in the role of the fictional Miles Utley, a personal protector of Mormon prophet Brigham Young (Charlton Heston). As the Mormon disciples attempt to establish a new community in the Utah wilderness, it is revealed that some disaffected church members would like their pacifist leader supplanted.

Indeed, an attempt is made on Young’s life by a hooded assassin, who is gunned down just in the nick of time by the vigilant Utley. When the assassin’s firearm cannot be found and some label the loyal bodyguard a dangerous, loose cannon, Utley begins to smell a conspiracy.

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What follows is a quest to unravel the mystery behind this murder attempt. Who wants Young dead and why? While the twists and turns that make up the plot aren’t quite worthy of Agatha Christie, they pack enough intrigue to sustain the film’s healthy pulse.

“The Avenging Angel” is also enlivened by several colorful supporting characters, including James Coburn--almost unrecognizable in a bushy gray beard--who plays real-life gunfighter Porter Rockwell with a nice dash of cocky irreverence.

* “The Avenging Angel” airs Sunday at 5, 7 and 9 p.m. on TNT.


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