80 of 87 people found the following review helpful
A Romantic Yet Gritty Western - Top Notch!
, December 30, 2006
This review is from: Broken Trail (DVD)
Wow! This is why filmmakers make movies. This movie will capture your imagination and heart. It is a big epic of a western, beautifuly filmed, with an intriging story line that will keep you guessing right up until the very end.
I am a devoted western movie fan, and this movie ranks up there with the very best of the genre.
Robert Duvall, best known as "Agustus" in Lonesome Dove, dons western garb once again and stars in a lengthy, yet thoroughly enjoyable tale of a horse drive across the plains to Sheridan, Wyoming. Duvall employs his nephew in the endevor, and they unexpectedly meet up with a variety of both endearing and unsavory characters along the way.
This is not a shoot 'em up western. It is not action-packed. It meanders at a leisurly pace, as an actual horse drive would, yet an enjoyable pace from beginning to end. Duvall, as the patriarch Print Ritter, and his nephew Tom Harte, (played exceedingly strongly by Thomas Church) take about 500 head of horses to Wyoming. On the trail, they cross trails with an evil pimp who is moving five Chinese girls to a mining camp where they will be sold into the living hell of prostitution. The Chinese are sweet innocent beings who are being mistreated by the pimp, and through a series of incidents, the girls become the responsibility of Ritter and Harte. From there, the group picks up additional characters: another trail hand, an aging abused prostitute, Nola, played wonderfully by Greta Scacchi(who becomes a potential love interest of Duvall), and a Chinese man. This western is unusual in that the men portrayed have an inate sense of honor, and they treat their "guests" with dignity and kindness, which is unusual treatment indeed. The men vow to protect their companions until they can be safely dropped off in a town where they will be protected and not abused.
On the trail we are treated to the troup interacting with each other. Nola falls in love with Duvall's character, as she senses the goodness inside him. She has never been treated with respect or kindness, and she sees a future with Duvall that would be romantic and tender in their love for each other. Meanwhile, nephew Tom has his shy eye on one of the Chinese girls, and they form a tentative, but budding relationship along the way. Throughout the trail drive, the viewer wonders how the love interests will play out.
As with any good western, there is a chief antagonist, and in this case, he is a former customer of Nola's, "Big Ed", who is obsessed with her, yet absues her, and in the past nearly killed her. He is paid to bring the Chinese girls to the mining town, and like any evil man, he surrounds himself with three other equally evil companions to accomplish the job. Plans are made to overcome Duvall and his group, take the Chinese girls, and steal the horse herd.
The climax occurs at the very end of the film, so it keeps you guessing right up until the very last minute. I will not spoil the ending here, yet suffice to say that the ending is tension-filled, action-packed, and beautifully directed for maximum suspense and impact.
Robert Duvall is magnificent. He is the quintessential cowboy, a role that he was born to play. His easy mannerisms and style of acting rank an A+ in my book. Thomas Church plays a powerful role as well, as the chief protector of the group. He is as physically hard as Duvall is tender-hearted, and the two make a fine contrast. All the actors portray their roles wonderfully and most believably. It is as though you are along for the ride, watching it all unfold. One is not aware that these are actors playing roles, no, these are reallife characters, and that is what draws you into this 4-hour movie, and keeps your interest.
This is a movie that is not suitable for young children due to gun violence and a brief rape scene. It is however, a movie that both men and women will enjoy together, for the male-female relationship is continually explored throughout the movie. Most westerns do not appeal to women, but this one is different, as much of the movie is interpreted through female eyes.
In conclusion, this is a great western that is worth every minute of the 4-our time span. It will engage you and show a side of the west that no other film has attempted. Highly recommended without reservations. Find a nice easy chair, sit back, and enjoy this beautifully-made film.
Jim 'Konedog" Koenig
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