Disturbing the Peace

 

            I hated the ending.  And that, after I was all ready to enjoy a good, modern Western, even if it's awkward in places.

            Marshall Dillon (Guy Pearce) is a former Texas Ranger who doesn't want to carry a gun any more, because of an incident where he accidentally shot his former partner who was in a chokehold from the bad guy.  Nobody really blamed him, but he blamed himself plenty.  Enough to semi-retire to this sleepy little town where nothing really bad happens.  His (only) deputy is eager to make a deposit at the (only) bank so he can flirt with the new teller.  Marshall indulgently allows it, because it's about time for him to get his coffee at the (only) cafe, where he's interested in the (only) waitress, Amanda (Barbie Blank).  She looks a little rough around the edges, just the right “Miss Kitty” in “Gunsmoke,” for which this movie is clearly an homage. 

            But the usually-quiet town is in for a bad surprise.  A gang of motorcycle toughs decide to target it for a bank heist.  Their first gambit is to pick a fight in the cafe and see if they can get one of their members arrested.  Then, while the lawmen are engaged escorting him to the County Jail, the gang rides in to do their nefarious deeds.

            But our intrepid Marshall is already one step ahead of them.  Anticipating this might be a diversion, he sends his deputy to transport the prisoner himself, while he stays behind, expecting more trouble.  And very soon it arrives.  The outlaws quickly hit the bank, and take the employees and customers hostage.  They then await the arrival of the armored truck from the casino, to rob that cash deposit, as well.

            The Bad Guys are mean, all right.  So mean that they intimidate the innocent and kill anyone who tries to oppose them.  So mean that they wear a tattoo on their forearms which says, “Never Forgive,” in Latin, no less.  (We prefer our outlaws to be well-educated.)  So mean that while holding the hostages in the (only) church, one of them takes communion bread from the table and eats it!  (So we add sacrilege to their resumes of infamy.)

            Marshall Dillon, though captured, manages to escape, and set various booby traps for the outlaw gang.  (He's apparently well-versed in explosives.)  He also even manages to “turn” the bad guy he captured himself (two ex-Marines deciding that “Semper Fi” transcends all other loyalties).  Now it's a deadly game of hide-and-seek, while the Deputy tries to summon help from the County Sheriff.

            We're all ready to root for the good guys here, until the end, which is such a disappointment.  While we don't expect 20 television seasons like the original “Gunsmoke” enjoyed, at the very least, we might hope that this Marshall Dillon would return, but only if he re-takes Good Guy 101, and makes a passing grade this time.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association