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Steve Miner
James Van Der Beek, Rachael Leigh Cook, Dylan McDermott, Usher Raymond, Ashton Kutcher, Leonor Varela, Tom Skerritt Screenplay:
Scott Busby, Martin Copeland, based on the book by George Durham

Count Your Bullets.
Box Office:
Budget $38 million.
Opening weekend $319,516 on 402 screens.
Domestic gross $623,374.
Rated PG-13 for western violence.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English; Closed-captioned

Runtime: 90 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/16/2002

• “Behind the Badge” Featurette
• Still Gallery
• Storyboard Sequences
• Theatrical Trailer


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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Texas Rangers (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Apparently Hollywood maintains an obsession with the resuscitation of the Western. Periodically they try to bring the genre back to public prominence, and occasionally it works. The genre enjoyed a nice little comeback in the early Nineties. Via 1990’s Dances With Wolves and 1992’s Unforgiven, Westerns won Best Picture two out of three years.

However, that trend didn’t last, so by the end of the decade, someone decided they needed to inject new life into the genre. Texas Rangers seemed like a good idea, I suppose. Round up some moderately popular young actors and that’ll bring the kids into the multiplexes, right?

Or maybe not. Rangers took an eternity to hit theaters. The movie was finished long before it finally made it onto US screens in 2001; for vague reasons I don’t recall, the studio sat on it for at least two years prior to release.

Now that I’ve seen the final product, I wish they’d kept it in the vaults longer. Any hope that Texas Rangers would revive the genre dissipated mere moments after the opening credits finished. The film provided a bland and forgettable affair that brought literally nothing new to the table.

Texas Rangers takes place a decade after the end of the Civil War. Led by nasty King Fisher (Alfred Molina), bandits run rampant in Texas, so the powers that be decide to bring back the Rangers, a law-enforcement group. Leander McNelly (Dylan McDermott) gets the charge to head this organization and bring peace and justice to the Lone Star State.

They run a recruitment drive and get a lot of folks with few qualifications other than their willingness. Included among them are Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek), an educated boy from back east whose family was slaughtered by the raiders, as well as George Durham (Ashton Kutcher), a goofy youngster and Randolph Douglas Scipio (Usher Raymond), a black sharpshooter forced into a subordinate role as a scout. At first, they show little skill and run into major troubles with the bandits. However, they remain determined and grow into their roles.

It’s all been done before, and it’s all been done better. Rangers manages to utilize virtually every Western stereotype imaginable. McNelly is the Preacher Who’s Lost His Faith, while Dunnison offers the Nerdy Bookworm Who Becomes A Man. Durham provides the Goofy But Lovable Sidekick, and Scipio gives us the Black One With Something to Prove.

Ugh! The plot gives us trite and tired good vs. evil, and it never threatens to become anything interesting. When we see how incompetent the nascent Rangers are, do we ever feel any doubt they’ll improve and save the day? No, and the movie does nothing to make that bland plot memorable.

The acting doesn’t help. Veterans like McDermott and Molina offer some depth to their underwritten roles, but the younger actors fall totally flat. Van Der Beek, Kutcher, and Raymond simply look silly in the period garb, and they can’t handle the setting well. They struggle with the awkward dialogue and come across as shallow and insipid.

Actually, I don’t blame the actors for this; it seems more a matter of poor casting. All the performers involved have reasonable talent and can work well within their own milieu. For Van Der Beek, that’s sensitive chick-flick material, while Kutcher’s best suited for broad comedy. Raymond needs to stick to singing; he’s not yet shown much acting skill.

Texas Rangers manages a few decent action sequences, but otherwise it fails to do much right. Director Steve Miner has a questionable track record; previously he helmed the lousy Halloween H2O. Nothing in Rangers will enhance his résumé. The movie provides a trite and tiresome piece that won’t bring the Western to life for a new generation.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B+ / Bonus C-

Texas Rangers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For the most part, the picture looked terrific, but some concerns knocked it out of contention for an “A”-level grade.

Really, the sole problem stemmed from edge enhancement. Though not overwhelming, a number of scenes displayed noticeable halos. Otherwise, the image seemed terrific. Sharpness consistently remained crisp and distinct, with no signs of softness. The picture stayed nicely well defined and accurate despite the edge enhancement. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems, and print flaws seemed very minor. I saw a bit or two of grit and a smidgen of grain, but otherwise the movie remained nicely clean and fresh.

Since most of the film took place outdoors in the daylight, the palette stayed naturalistic, and the DVD replicated those tones well. Colors seemed nicely vibrant and lush, as the Texas vistas came across nicely. The hues lacked any form of noise, bleeding or other concerns, and they provided well-saturated tones. Black levels were deep and rich, and shadow detail remained clear and appropriately opaque, even when confronted with some “day for night” scenes; those often look excessively thick, but they stayed clean here. Overall, were it not for the edge enhancement, this would be a top-notch transfer.

Also good was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Texas Rangers. For the most part, the movie featured a fairly forward bias. From the front, I heard very good imaging. Music showed solid stereo presence and separation, and effects created a positive impression. Various elements seemed appropriately located, and they blended together cleanly. Panning was smooth and reasonably seamless as well.

Surround usage appeared a little limited at times, but the rears usually popped into action pretty well during action sequences. On those occasions, the surrounds contributed a good sense of atmosphere, and some stereo elements appeared, such as gunfire and the swirling of a lasso. For the most part, though, the rear speakers favored general reinforcement of music and effects, and they did so well.

Audio quality appeared positive. Dialogue sounded warm and natural, and speech showed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music provided a nicely brisk presence, as the score seemed bright and lively throughout the movie. Effects were similarly distinct and accurate, without any signs of distortion. All elements showed fairly solid bass response. Low-end appeared slightly boomy on occasion, but usually those elements came across as reasonably tight and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Texas Rangers felt short of “A” territory, but it supported the film more than adequately.

Only a few minor extras appear on this DVD. First we find Behind the Badge, an eight and a half minute featurette. In a happy twist, it includes no movie clips; instead it just offered shots from the set and interviews with a number of actors. In the latter domain, we heard from James Van Der Beek, Dylan McDermott, Ashton Kutcher, Robert Patrick, Randy Travis, Rachael Leigh Cook, and Usher Raymond. While I was pleased with the absence of film snippets, I still didn’t find a lot of content here. Some of the footage from the shoot seemed interesting, but the interviews lacked substance; a few useful notes appeared, but mostly we just heard fluff about how good everything was.

Next we get two storyboard sequences. These include the “Original Script Opening” (nine minutes, 10 seconds) and “The Palo Alto Shootout” (four minutes, 53 seconds). The first one shows the boards in the top part of the frame and places the script text in the bottom. The “Shootout” offers the boards in most of the screen and puts a small inset with the finished film in the lower right corner. Because it includes material not found in the final movie, the “Original Script Opening” is the more interesting of the two, but it’s also somewhat fun to see how the boards came to life for the other sequence.

Lastly, we get a Still Gallery with 75 photos - most of which show shots from the movie, with only a few “behind the scenes” images - as well as some ads. We discover the theatrical trailer for Rangers plus more promos in the Sneak Peeks domain. That area also features bits for Dimension’s “Cutting Edge Films”, Iron Monkey, On the Line and Robinson Crusoe.

A totally bland Western, Texas Rangers never bothers to attempt any depth or spirit. It paints by numbers and provides a predictable and lifeless flick that deserved its box office anonymity. The DVD offers generally strong picture and sound plus a minor complement of supplements. Give Texas Rangers a look only if you’re fascinated by the cast; otherwise, skip this lame Western.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.3846 Stars Number of Votes: 13
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