by Mark Rivers
Have you ever put a Thanksgiving turkey in the oven, then taken it out way too early? Then you have to put it back in, check on it, make sure nobody else is bringing an entree to the dinner, and finally serve it over a year later? If you have, you know how Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Larry Levinson felt. They are the Jews who made this turkey "Texas Rangers" in 1999, but put off its release several times, once because it coincided with the release of an equally bad teenybopper Western, "American Outlaws," and once just for snorin' too loud.
Now that "Texas Rangers" has been released, it is enduring the slings and arrows of every movie critic on the planet. It is a bad, bad, BAD movie. Naturally, since it features a negro as a hero, I have one more reason to dislike it (as if I needed one). The movie is based on a true story by George Durham, who rode with the Texas Rangers about 125 years ago. In the movie (which, I'm willing to bet, has more than a couple of dissimilarities to the book), George meets the hero, Lincoln (James Van Der Beek), who wants to avenge the death of his family. Together, George and Lincoln (all they need now is a Rockwell) set out to join the Texas Rangers.
The leader of the Texas Rangers, embittered former clergyman Leander McNeely (Dylan McDermott), reminds Lincoln that their mission is not one of vengeance, but of justice. Our two heroes join the team, as does...A NOBLE NEGRO! Yes, I was shocked too. Why, those poor, underrepresented negroes are NEVER allowed to be heroes in Western films (except for "Wild, Wild West," "Posse," "Silverado," "Unforgiven," "Lightning Jack," "Glory" and "Blazing Saddles," to name a few). So, throughout the movie, the superchimp is seen complaining about discrimination, boasting about his gunslinging and guitar-playing expertise and saving the life of his racist sergeant (Robert Patrick), thereby gaining his respect and opening him up to tolerance, so that the Sarge can later fall in love with a Mexican girl. Finally, the negro gets to show off his incredible gunfighting skills (far superior to those of his peers). The White Villain (Alfred Molina) twirls his mustache and delights in how perfectly "eeee-vil" he is, bwa ha ha.
Although the villain's gang of bandits seems to consist largely of Mexicans, the only close-ups we see are of the Whites in his gang. The Jews took special care to portray the Mexicans only as victims (as with the Mexican girl and her martyred husband, who speak English perfectly until they are faced with the complexities of uttering "Yes" or "Sir," then they lapse into Spanish, just so you'll know they're Mexican).
In the final battle, Lincoln shoots the villain dead, then walks away in slow motion as the music swells. As an epilogue (which, mercifully, tells us that the end of the movie is near), McNeely dies of consumption...or tuberculosis...or maybe just from looking at the script once too often. Anyway, he kicks the bucket, Lincoln takes over the Texas Rangers, and they all ride off in slow motion (the negro taking his place at Lincoln's side) as the music swells again. The end.
Also appearing in "Texas Rangers" are the helpful rancher (Tom Skeritt) who is murdered by the bandits so that the heroes can say "All right, now we're REALLY mad" (bom-ba-bommm) and the rancher's beautiful, strong-willed daughter (Rachel Leigh Cook), who falls for one of our young heroes (not the negro, for once). Jew Oded Fehr appears as a "French" villain, but he is on the screen for less than five minutes before he is hanged, vigilante-style, so that Lincoln can glare at McNeely and preach, "This is not justice!" (sob, sob....) The strong-willed rancher's daughter also has a few words to say about the matter. Her smug sermonette on morality is every bit as out of place in "Texas Rangers" as it was in "The Patriot," which also featured a negro hero (shock, shock...). Randy Travis also appears in the movie, but his role is so abbreviated, he might as well have been played by...well...Randy Travis.
"Texas Rangers" has every cowboy movie cliche' there is, including the new rule added in the last decade that declares, "Every period picture must feature at least one non-White hero, even if it means crossing the boundary of reality." "Texas Rangers" is a torturous experience that embodies everything one can despise about Hollywood today. If you must, rent "The Wild Bunch" instead of watching this dried-up cow patty of a film.
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