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on September 4, 2003
Cut from the same hide as classic western dramas like Lonesome Dove, Streets of Laredo, Monte Walsh, and Crossfire Trail, The Johnson County War is a well-told story that is loosely based on actual historic events.
It's the age-old conflict: Big Business vs. the small entrepreneur. The big cattlemen employ the tried and true strategy of the west for dealing with their small time competitors: if you can't beat them kill them! But one man stands up for his beliefs and is ready to pay the ultimate price for them.
Tom Berenger heads a stellar cast that includes Luke Perry, Burt Reynolds and Rachel Ward. The script by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana is along the same lines as their Lonesome Dove masterpiece.
I actually bought and watched this one on the merits of the cast and writers alone and never looked back.
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on September 28, 2002
When I saw this title come up as a "pre-release", I had to check the movie data bases to see what it was all about. It is based on a book called "Riders of Judgement", which is, in turn, based on actual historical events involving rich land hungry bad guys and small ranchers, farmers and homesteaders, who, in reality, were not quite the good guys you see in this film. It is really well written, acted and filmed, and it never drags, despite the nearly three hours that it runs. Luke Perry and Tom Berenger are the brothers who try to resist the efforts of the rich members of the "Cheyenne Social Club" to run them off their ranches. The film script was written by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, and what a fine job they did. Berenger, an actor who generally delivers a good performance is realy in top form here, as are most of the cast. Casting Burt Reynolds as the bad guys' hired gun/corrupt marshal is the only weak element in the cast; I find his work overall to be generally light weight, and here, he isn't a "bad" enough villain. The original TV rendition was a Hallmark work, which is usually a plus for me because those folks take their sponsorship seriously, and the transfer to DVD is first rate, including some spectacular scenery. If you like a good adventure film, you can't go wrong here.
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on December 16, 2002
I enjoyed this movie very much. It's a solid western with a decent plot and is well-paced and well-cast. Three brothers try to keep their land while big ranchers do everything evil and devious they can to drive the smaller ranchers out. There is a certain amount of brutality and tragedy along the way.
The three Hammett brothers (Tom Berenger, Adam Storke and Luke Perry) are all good in their parts. I especially liked Adam Storke as the sweet but somewhat wishy-washy Dale. His relationship with fiesty wife Michelle Forbes (now seen on "24") is complex. She browbeats and adores him, yet privately admits to Berenger's character that she really prefers him over her husband. ( interesting wrinkle in their story.)
Luke Perry plays the youngest brother, Harry, who is turning into somewhat of a wastrel. I never saw much of Perry prior to this, since I steadfastly avoided watching the "Beverly Hills" series that brought him his fame. I never thought much of him before, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good he is in this part. His romance with a lovely young widow is, however, underdeveloped and I think this was a definite flaw in the story.
Tom Berenger (as Cain Hammett) is clearly the oldest brother of this trio. Berenger's developed quite a good reputation for doing outstanding Westerns and historical dramas, so he's a wise choice for this movie as well. He's always an excellent actor and does well in this role. His character is sympathetic, brave and self-sacrificing and you can't help but empathize with him.
Also excellent are Rachel Ward as a toughened but likeable prostitute, Christopher Cazenove as a foppish British rancher, and Burt Reynolds as an evil villian.
This is a perfectly competent western. Incredible scenery, a good cast and a well paced story make it worthwhile to see.
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on December 25, 2002
Larry McMurtry has once again crafted another timeless western. Thought not as good as Lonesome Dove, this film does stand it's own. One reviewere said that certain scenes would never happen in a Lousi L'Amour novel, and that is correct; mainly because L'Amours novels are not realistic; they are just stories. Everything that happened in this movie, at one point on another, actualy happened in real life (though not necessarily in the Johnson County War). The story revolves Berenger's character, Cain and his fight against the cattle barons of wyoming. Cain, incidently,is a parallel of the real life figure Nate Champion, who fought in the Johnson War.
The script leaves one reminded of the Lonesome Dove series in that there is plenty of character driven dialouge, and the movie superbly paces itself to the climax (which is an awewsome scene). There are plenty of funny moments too, such as a converstaion about jello. The cinemtography is great, and the movie feels likes a western. It does not look modern, as the other reviewer said. (note: the war took place in the 1890's, so rich places like the Cheyenne Club were indeed well furnished).
Some say that Burt Reynolds was not a good choice, but I thought he did a good job, as did Luke Perry and Adam Storke. Overall, this is one of the best westerns I have seen, and trust me, i have seen many. It is a shame that only television is producing quality westerns (unlike the theater where films such as the horrible Texas Rangers & American Outlaws were made).
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on December 20, 2002
Although westerns are not as popular as they used to be, this past decade or so has seen some extremely well-made ones: Tombstone, Lonesome Dove, Unforgiven, Dances With Wolves, Conagher, & Streets of Laredo. Add to that list this remarkable film, written by Larry McMurtry (of Lonesome Dove et al) Tom Berenger (Rough Riders, Gettysburg, Avenging Angel) is one of the most under-rated actors of today, and here is able to fall into an excellent portrayal fo a 19th century cowboy. As noted in the Amazon review, the cinematography is enthralling, which just adds to the over-all feel of the western period.
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on November 5, 2005
Large, sprawling, and picture-postcard pretty, JOHNSON COUNTY WAR is a three-hour mini-series that originally ran on the Hallmark Channel in 2002. It's based on a real event, a range war that pitted large ranchers against small ranchers in Wyoming in 1892. Infamously it's the real life event that inspired Michael Cimino's mega-disaster `Heaven's Gate.'

`Based on' doesn't mean `faithful to,' and a cursory internet search of `Johnson County War' reveals a muddled, hero-less big rancher versus small rancher conflict that pitted cattle rustlers against the unscrupulous wealthy. Here, though, the moral right and wrong is more strongly etched. Tom Berenger plays Cain Hammett, the eldest of three brothers (why are there always three brothers in these western mini-series?) Cain is a good guy, a small ranch bachelor who has a healthy and upright respect for younger brother Dale's (Adam Storke) wife Rory (Michelle Forbes.) Dale is a sheep rancher, a bit lower in the pecking order as such things were reckoned back then. Unfortunately, we're introduced to Dale soon after we meet Rory, who's nursing a nasty looking, husband-inflicted black eye. The penalty, the movie explains away, for calling your husband a coward because he won't shoot to kill mercenary Marshall Hunt Lawton (Burt Reynolds.) Little brother Harry (Luke Perry), meanwhile, is out branding strays and squiring a passel of young widows. The widows were made by Lawton, who along with other hired thugs pin messages (`Beware Cattle Rustlers,' and the like) on their victims' corpses. The wealthy ranchers' Cheyenne Club hired Lawton to intimidate the small ranchers into leaving.

JOHNSON COUNTY WAR is a good enough movie, but it has some problems. For one, it lasts at least an hour longer than it needs to. Rachel Ward plays a hard-boiled prostitute who, while entertaining enough, doesn't add a lot to the story while chewing up an inordinate amount of screen time. Reynolds, in a role Robert Ryan spent the last couple of decades of his career playing to perfection, doesn't have the grit to carry it off convincingly. The issues aren't very sharply drawn, either. I don't mind when a movie plays with the facts, but JOHNSON COUNTY WAR doesn't make the core issues, especially what's happening with the small ranchers, clear enough to follow. An alright modern western, but that's about it.
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on December 5, 2003
If you are a western fan, historical buff or Tom Berenger fan then this moveie is for you. I TOTALLY disagree with anyone who is not impressed with this movie. It is well done historically and the acting makes you believe you are there. Tom Berenger is at his finest as the elder brother, naive because of his belief in honesty and truth and the fact that justice is supposed to prevail----well it finally does but at great cost!
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on December 26, 2004
This movie and its' actors really hit home with the reality of their characters. Tom Berenger was right on the money, sincere and moving. I really enjoy a good, well-documented western, and this was definitely high on my list of movies that I can and sit and watch more than twice. Real, sincere, accurate,moving,thought-provoking. Great job!
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on March 1, 2006
I am a resident of Buffalo, Johnson County, Wyoming. I've seen this movie as well as "Heaven's Gate" and "In Old Cheyenne" all of which supposedly dealt with the "Johnson County War" of 1892. This version is a well-acted western and enjoyable entertainment but I must plead with the reader to not believe this movie has anything to do the titled incident. It's worth getting to add to your "westerns" collection or if you're a fan of Burt Reynolds or Tom Berenger. But Don't get it if you want to learn about the real Johnson County War...that version hasn't been filmed yet.
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on August 26, 2005
This movie (althought the names have been changed) is based on real people and real events of the last days of the Wild West. In general, the storyline runs pretty close to actual historical events... Tom Berringer has to be one of the best "cowboy" actors around, and proves himself again in this one. All of the lead actors do a great job, and the story never drags... the suspense builds and you know something big is coming... when the final showdown happens, it's not your typical shoot'em-up, and the hero is left standing scenerio. He has his work cut out for him, and it's all very realistic and believable, with no outrageous special effects, or people being blown backwards and upside down from a pistol shot.

You'll want to watch this movie over and over... each time you do, you'll realize new things about the old west, and you'll find yourself tinkering on which side of the law you'd be on if you were in Wyoming in those days. It's a very thought provoking, and political movie, and it captures the mindset of those times real well. Great scenery, great action, great plot, great historical accuracy, great cast, just an all-around great movie. I expect this one will be TV for years to come, but I'd recommend this one to anyone who enjoys westerns, American history, political evolution, or action-adventure.

PS. It's not just a guy movie either, there's plenty of heart-aches, tears, betrayal, domestic violence, female bravery, love triangles, and romance mixed into these 3-hours as well... anyone who enjoys soap opera's will have their hands full with the various romantic sub-plots.
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