Westerns are the Greek Tragedies of the movie world. Well done, they are human, gritty works of art. Done poorly, they can be melodrama. It is fortunate that there are enough of us left who remember the Westerns from the 50s and 60s and can work the formulas correctly. This is one of the good ones.
Matt Austin (Luke Perry) is an ex-sheriff in a town in Texas who has hung up his guns to live a peaceful life with his wife and son on his ranch. Unfortunately, he has some unfinished business who has just escaped from prison, in the person of Tate, whose brother Austin killed a few years before. Austin hears that Tate is loose; but in going looking for him, he is outthunk by Tate, who goes directly to Austin's ranch and murders Austin's family, and escapes again. Austin, decimated, dedicates his life to finding Tate and making him answer for his crimes.
The scene shifts to California, to a town run by an Oil Can Harry of a bad guy (C. Thomas Howell) named Mr. Horn. Mr Horn is trying to run a local Mexicano family off their land, where they have lived for 90 years, because they have something he wants; a bountiful spring, the major source of water in the area. Mr. Horn knows that if he controls the water, he will become the most powerful man in the area. He also knows he has a limited time to pull off his claim to the land; the tax assessors are on their way, and when they come, his claim will be negated. And, of course, he is encountering stiff opposition from the family, composed of a brother Eddie and his widowed sister and her boy. Mr Horn is getting very pushy.
As a last resort, Eddie - against his sister's wishes - rides to a nearby cesspit of a town full of roughnecks and gunmen to hire help in protecting their land. He has the misfortune to be hiring Tate, who has made it to this ugly little town, at the same time as Austin gets there, having tracked Tate to the place. In the gunbattle that ensues, Eddie is killed and Tate gets away. A man of honour, Austin brings Eddie back to his sister and his land.
Amaya, the sister, to her credit understands that the death was accidental, and accepts Austin's offer of help as small recompense for the loss of her brother. Of course, word gets around, and Mr Horn learns of the new hand on the Aguilar ranch. He turns up the heat with hired guns, which inevitably includes - you guessed it - Tate, who has his own agenda.
There is nothing here that hasn't been done many times before, but if it is acted well, it is worth seeing again a new way. Everyone here does their part admirably; Luke Perry is getting the Old West man-of-moral-fiber thing down, and even bears very slight resemblance to a young Clint Eastwood (no rocks thrown, please, I know I'm toying with an icon). C. Thomas Howell, as Mr Horn, is well done, all angular and black-clad and mean; Kim Coates, as Tate, plays a perfect slimeball; and Jaclyn DeSantis, as Amaya, portrays a strong woman of the Old West, determined not to lose her land.
This wasn't "Shane", but it wasn't bad. They're turning out good Westerns these days sometimes; and this one is pretty good. Strongly acted, with good dialog, and believable. The score was good, a little overpowering at times, but it fit the movie. This movie will satisfy your Western fix.