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Crossfire Trail (2001)

by on 2013/06/03

Crossfire Trail (2001)

“Well it ain’t heaven, but it’s near enough.”
“Close as we’re likely to get.”

* * *

Based on a book by pulp stalwart Louis L’Amour, this TV movie was directed by Simon Wincer, whose Australian background seems both suprising (given his Lonesome Dove) and natural (Quigley Down Under) in his aptitude for near-modern western films. Crossfire Trail may not be his strongest, but it stands on par with other efforts I’ve enjoyed, like the Goodnight for Justice series, also shot in Canada.

Set in 1880 and moving from California to Wyoming, the story concerns failed Jesuit priest Raphael “Rafe” Covington (Tom Selleck), who agrees to honour the last wish of a dying friend. He will return to safeguard the man’s homestead and family.

When he arrives in Wyoming, he discovers a conspiracy afoot, a plot to cheat the widow of her land. Apparently most of the locals are involved or complicit. While Rafe’s outspoken righteousness does little to endear him to many, he wins a small group of followers agreeing to help set things right.

I had various minor issues, yet the production’s sweep and spirit helped me overlook a lot of them. For the record, I simply didn’t “get” the title. Questionable camera work sapped some moments of tension, particularly moving shots, with clumsy panning, trucks, and zooms. Lighting and continuity is a mixed bag as well, with certain synchronous events looking hours apart to judge by the shadows and sun.

On the other hand, the photography can occasionally be awe-inspiring, with establishing scenes benefiting from Albertan locations. The video’s aspect ratio (1.78) maximizes immersion in a way that theatrical (2.40) westerns sometimes lose. There’s definitely some advantage in “made for TV” nowadays. Excellent too is the musical score by Eric Colvin which, to my ears, was not used enough, especially the main-and-end title theme motif.

The cast was very enjoyable, with many familiar faces, including Wilford Brimley, Barry Corbin, Mark Harmon, Virginia Madsen (The Number 23), and William Sanderson (Blade Runner). The not-so-secret weapon, of course, is Selleck, whose gruff charisma elevates everything and everyone around him. I swear, he’s another Sam Elliott, utterly impervious to critique. (Except perhaps for Myra Breckinridge.)

Overall Crossfire Trail is perhaps a bit simple, straightforward, and predictable. It’s shallow, leaves loose threads, and is occasionally heavy-handed. Nevertheless, it’s a solid shot of fun, and worth checking out, for the visuals as well as for Selleck, assuming you don’t consider them one and the same.

* * *

Rated G / Unrated

95 minutes

  1. Grushenka Geusebach permalink

    Yay! Alberta! Good things come from Alberta.

    It’s a fact.

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