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James Whitmore Jr.,
Tom Selleck (TV's Magnum P.I.) and Sam Elliot (Tombstone) star as brothers who battled on opposing sides of the Civil War only to return home to discover that their family, including a younger brother and one of the brothers' fianc?es, have been kidnapped by a marauding band of rebel guerrillas whorefuse to accept the defeat of the Confederacy. Aided by their uncle, they set out to rescue the f... Written by
there's not a single intelligent line or moment in "The Shadow Riders", but it's an undeniably fun and entertaining Western nonetheless
If I were to describe the Louis L'Amour novel-based television film "The Shadow Riders" in two words that might seem to contradict each other, they would be: dimwitted and fun. No, this is not a great Western or a great movie by any stretch of the imagination. Intellectually and screenplay-wise, it's mediocre at best. But in terms of the entertainment that one receives from viewing it, especially fans of the old-fashioned Westerns like myself, it both promises and delivers. There is not a single smart line or moment in "The Shadow Riders", but it's thoroughly entertaining and I was not bored with a single moment of it. I was not mightily impressed either, but I had the time of my life.
I have not read the original novel by Louis L'Amour, but judging from my research, the basic plot remains the same. The film stars Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott as brothers who fought on opposite sides of the Civil War and return to their home in Texas only to find that their sisters, brother, and Elliott's girlfriend (played by Elliott's real-life spouse Katharine Ross) have been taken by renegade Confederate soldiers led by a bloodthirsty, revenge-seeking colonel (Geoffrey Lewis), who plans to sell them as slaves in Mexico in return for guns and ammunition to continue a war he feels has not ended.
If somebody had come up to me after viewing "The Shadow Riders" and told me that it was made in the 1950s or 60s, I would have believed it. That could very well be the magic that works in this otherwise dimwitted Western. It has the same spirit, the same style, the same manner and rhythm of dialogue and story that the old, action-packed classics had. Yes, it's an old-fashioned Western, but that's not a bad thing at all.
Yes, the film also has many moments where disbelief must be suspended. Just like in the old Westerns, when there's a shootout, the good guys score a direct hit every time and the bad guys, no matter how many shots they fire, always seem to miss. There's a scene where Selleck and Elliott are charging into an enemy camp trying to stampede their stolen cattle and are firing three to five shots from their six-guns into the air instead of wisely saving ammunition for fighting the enemy that's rousing in front of them. And I also thought it was silly how Geoffrey Lewis and the always competent Gene Evansas well as everybody else it seemswas drawn relentlessly and vulnerably to a middle-aged Katharine Ross. Not to mention that the attitudes of several characters seem written for actors of an adolescent age even though the film was meant for adult actors.
You get my point. "The Shadow Riders" is not an intelligent film. And like I said earlier, it's not a very well-made one either. But it's most certainly entertaining in the guilty pleasure range and it's eye candy with its all-star cast, many of whom are veterans from the old Western period like Harry Carey Jr., R.G. Armstrong, and Ben Johnson, who steals every scene he's in as the brothers' renegade uncle. If you're not a Western fan, there's really no big reason to see "The Shadow Riders". But if you are, or if you want to see Dominique Dunne in her last film role, then by all means, see it. You will have the time of your life.
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