"Texas Rangers" reduces the turbulent post-Civil War history of the legendary law-and-order agency to the level of a routine shoot-'em-up, with the triteness of Scott Busby and Martin Copeland's script exceeded only by the flatness of Steve Miner's direction.
With its raft of young actors, it recalls a Universal release of the '70s designed to show off its roster of contract players. If it does nothing to advance the careers of James Van Der Beek and Ashton Kutcher and others, it won't harm them either: They are entirely professional, and it's not their fault this is such a dull show.
"Inspired" by a script by John Milius and Ehren Kruger--a Milius-filmed "Texas Rangers" would seem rife with possibilities--this Dimension Films release opens in 1875. Real-life ranger Leander McNelly (a tight-lipped Dylan McDermott), embittered by the kidnapping of his wife and three children by bandidos years earlier, is recruiting men to make safe a vast lawless territory.
Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (Van Der Beek) and George Durham (Kutcher), after suffering their own losses, are among a group of young men who join the Rangers under McNelly's iron leadership. After entirely predictable developments and much carnage, the Rangers of course triumph. Any one of the half-hour episodes in the old radio serial "Tales of the Texas Rangers" starring Joel McCrea or "The Lone Ranger" hold more interest than this 93-minute bore.
Though the entire cast is solid, even if rendered stolid by the circumstances, only Robert Patrick, as one of McNelly's right-hand men, manages to transcend the glum circumstances to come alive and register some personality and complexity.
Since the western is such an endangered species, a film such as "Texas Rangers" seems like a nail in the coffin of a genre so integral to the history of the American cinema. (It figures that this film was shot in Canada and Mexico, with apparently nary a frame shot in Texas.) It is impossible to review "Texas Rangers," which understandably was not previewed in advance, without thinking of the passing last week of a master of the genre, director Budd Boetticher. "Texas Rangers" lists 150 performers cast as outlaws and rangers--in addition to its three dozen featured actors.
That's surely several times over the entire number of players in the seven Boetticher-Randolph Scott westerns, which have only grown in stature and impact with the passing of time. Sometimes less really is more.
MPAA rating: PG-13, for western violence. Times guidelines. The film's bloodshed and body count are considerable.
James Van Der Beek...Lincoln R. Dunnison
Dylan McDermott...Leander McNelly
Usher Raymond...Randolph Douglas Scipio
Ashton Kutcher...George Durham
Rachael Leigh Cook...Caroline Dukes
A Dimension Films release of Price Entertainment/Greisman production in association with Larry Levinson Productions. Director Steve Miner. Producers Alan Greisman, Frank Price. Executive producers Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Cary Granat, Larry Levinson. Screenplay Scott Busby, Martin Copeland; inspired by a script by John Milius and Ehren Kruger. Cinematographer Daryn Okada. Editor Peter Devaney Flanagan, Gregg Featherman. Music Trevor Rabin. Costumes Wendy Partridge. Production designer Herbert Pinter. Set designers Peter Stratford, Leslie Taylor. Co-set decorators Louise Middleton, Robin A. Swiderski, Paul Healy. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.
In general release