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The Final Instalment of Duvall's Cowboy Trilogy.,
This review is from: Broken Trail [DVD] (DVD)
Robert Duvall said in an interview shortly before the television network premier of "Broken Trail", that this was the last of his western trilogy that started with Lonesome Dove(89) and continued with "Open Range"(03). He might also have considered "Geronimo, An American Legend"(93), where he played army scout Al Sieber, who is from the same mould as the other characters. Having watched the first three, you would be hard pushed to see a difference between the characters. They are the same bow legged, crotchety cowboy with a heart of gold. Even his seemingly unique facial mannerisms are repeated. It is as if Duvall has spent many hours in front of the mirror perfecting his ageing cowboy, and then used it again and again as if in a Buffalo Bill Wild West show. He was even at it again recently in "The Road"(09), where the same character seemed to reappear in that futuristic drama. But it works, and Duvall is a very good actor who can get away with it.
In "Broken Trail" a TV mini series in two parts, he this time plays Print Ritter a cowboy who teams up with his nephew Tom Harte, played surprisingly well by Thomas Haden Church, to drive 500 mustangs from Oregon to Wyoming for sale to the British army in the Boer war. The trail as suggested in the title is not without its problems. The cowboys rescue a wagon load of Chinese girls being sold into prostitution. Something that did happen in the old west, when impoverished Chinese families were willing to sell their children for a pittance to be transported to America. The group are then pursued by a particularly brutal gang, who will stop at nothing to get their quarry.
The series is beautifully shot in Canada, which substitutes seamlessly for Oregon and Wyoming. Canada retains much of its pristine wilderness and is perfectly suited to the western genre. The storyline is not a strong one and the characters are not as well drawn as in "Open Range", which was the superior of the two. "Broken Trail" is not lifted by such scenes as the lovely closing scene of the bone china tea cups, that graces "Open Range" so elegantly. But this is an excellent outing none the less in an age when there is a paucity of such westerns. Duvall has done much to lift the genre and has come a long way since he played Lucky Ned Pepper in "True Grit"(69). The action is well orchestrated, the villains are particularly villainous, and there are many scenes of galloping horses with manes flying. You can't really ask for a lot more!