With blue-tipped hair, black nail polish and multiple piercings, Clay (Sam Huntington - Superman Returns, Fanboys), is out-of-place in his small Texas community. Bitter over the death of his Father, the angry seventeen-year-old invites trouble by acting recklessly, committing vandalism, aggravating his friends, and ignoring his teachers. His grandpa, Buster (Barry Corbin - The Closer, One Tree Hill, Northern Exposure), decides to pick up the reins, and break this rank colt. Buster, the tough-as-leather county sheriff, uses cowboy logic and tough love tactics to straighten out his angry grandson. He gives Clay a choice: Face the judge and take his punishment of possible jail time, or go on a 60 mile, survival boat trip down the rugged Pecos River - where he just might discover what he is really made of.
Clay Watkins (Sam Huntington, Superman Returns) is a big-time rebel in a small-time Texas town. His mother (Caroline Goodall, Schindler's List) is a mess, unable to control his confrontational behavior. His grandfather (Barry Corbin, Wargames) is the local sheriff, who spends most of his time bailing Clay out of all kinds of trouble. When he finally goes too far (yet again), Granddad Watkins makes a deal with the boy take a trip, all by himself, down the 60 miles that make up the regional river, and he'll square away everything with the judicial system. Initially, Clay balks, but after a bit of somber soul searching, he decides to give it a try. Of course he hates it at first, but it's not long before the pierced punk begins enjoying his time in the wilderness. Elsewhere, the sheriff is sniffing out a local drug ring. When a couple of the criminals escape his roadside sting, they carjack a vehicle and head out into the desert. Unbeknownst to the hoods, they've inadvertently kidnapped a local gal (Amanda Brooks, Flightplan) and they soon make a beeline for the same river Clay is canoeing down. Obviously they are headed for a spectacular showdown, with the felons ready to fight for their freedom and our hero hoping to prove his maturing mettle. It will all come down at the River's End, a place where you never quite know what's going to happen. It starts after only 15 minutes. You can see it written all across the screen. It's as if screenwriter Glen Stephens and director William Katt (yes, The Greatest American Hero himself) used the knotty notion as part of the very celluloid fabric they're working with. Call it inherent nobility or purposeful decency, but River's End is overloaded with good intentions. You know the kind of motives I mean. This is a film just busting at the seams with wholesome happenstance and life lessons via character-building basics. In the persona of sage Sheriff Buster; Watkins and the stilted swagger of his minor metrosexual grandson Clay, we are supposed to see the daily dichotomy that exists out in the real world - hard-working honor vs. IPod-inspired unembellished laziness. The combination, in conjunction with lots of your standard classroom bullying and harried home life, leads to the discovery of inner strength and the overcoming of obstacles. All that's missing is the Jesus is Lord pronouncement and some choir singing Amazing Grace. Thankfully, River's End avoids the Go with God designs and instead tries to make human beings responsible for their own unnecessary rebelliousness. By learning the messages that a body of water can teach you and helping to save a kidnapped girl along the way, you can reverse decades of pro-punk swagger and bad experiments with hair gel. But that's beside River's End's rather routine point. Basically, this movie argues that if you stop being an alt-rock reaming wuss, man up and take responsibility for your own shortcomings, and stick a scorpion or two down a dope peddler's boot, you'll wind up with the hottest chick on campus and a ball sack overflowing with freshly minted machismo. You'll forgive your late, lamented Dad, appreciate your overburdened single mother, and finally understand the lure of a canoe and a cooler filled with authentic longhorn beef jerky. It has to be said that River's End is not a bad movie. It delivers its many wholesome messages with directness and emotional honesty. If you are one of those people who laments the lack of cinematic choices for the whole family from wee ones to the elderly, smug adolescents to needing-a-bit-of-a-break adults, River's End will service your unexceptional entertainment needs. It's rather routine, but acquits itself by never growing boring while covering those basics. --Judge Bill Gibron - DVD Verdict
Most teen angst flicks tend to go too far over the top. You know the type of film, usually shown as an after school special or something on the Lifetime network. Here, the teen in question can t cope with some tragedy, winds up with the wrong crowd and starts off head long into ruining his or her life. The problem with these films is while there is a lesson to be had it is painted on a too unrealistic canvas that lamentably it becomes laughable. Fortunately, with River s End, the sophomore effort by actor turned director, William Katt, the film works both as a lesson and entertainment. Here the characters and situations are believable, the message does not knock you over the head and there is a very strong narrative to the film. This is a family film in the truest sense of the term, something all ages can sit together, watch and enjoy. What makes this film work is not the formula but how the director handles the development of the story. Instead of rushing into having Clay come across damsel in distress time is provide for the young man to begin to cope with his own problems. Saving the pretty girl is not the main event that changes Clay, which was already well under way. This is what sets this film a bit above the pack. Instead of one crucial moment that changes his life his journey of self discovery enabled him to rise to the occasion to help. The pacing here is better than average for this genre of film. In the second act there are two story lines that move together organically, never forced or contrived. The over all feel to the movie is positive with just the right amount of action thrown in so the younger set will stay interested. Katt has been a fixture on television for years now. Of course most people will remember him as the Greatest American Hero but here he demonstrates that he has been paying attention to the directors. Many actors try to move over to the big chair but Katt shows great promise calling the shots. He avoids the usual pitfalls of a teen oriented film but not depending on quick, static shots or a pounding pop sound track. Instead his camera stays with a character giving the actors a chance to actually perform. Sam Huntington is excellent as the perturbed teen. He avoids going over the top as an angst ridden teen playing Clay as a believable and sympathetic young man. Even when Clay is acting out or being dismissive of the adults trying to help there is a sense that this is a person worth saving. The audience is afforded the opportunity to become emotionally involved with his character. Barry Corbin is perfect as the grandfather. He has the look of a man used to his own way but also one who appreciates the difficultly his grandson is facing. He has had roles like this many times before but always makes them fresh. Amanda Brooks has some good emotional scenes here but is not given much more to do than look frightened. This was only her second film and there is something there for her as an actor but this film did not give her all that much to show it. --HomeTheaterInfo.com