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To those of us who follow any of HBO's original programming, it should come
as no surprise that a film on the level of THE JACK BULL premieres on HBO.
While the folks out in Hollywood are busy heaping money on so-called films
such as AMERICAN OUTLAWS and TEXAS RANGERS, leave it to HBO and John Cusak
to come up with the good stuff. Though the big screen fare is far glossier
(and no doubt costlier), Cusak's gritty western is simply far superior.
Boasting a cast including Cusak, John C. McGinley, John Goodman, and L. Q.
Jones, the film out-acts its big screen competitors by a mile and a half.
Combine it with a cold, smart, gritty screenplay by Cusak's dad and strong
direction by John Badham and you have a film worthy of inclusion among
really good Westerns.
f you want to see Ashton Kutcher, James Van Der Beek, Colin Farrell, or Usher Raymond, you'll have to rent the other two. But if you want to see something more on par with Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN, well then, THE JACK BULL is calling your name!
Fifteen minutes into almost any movie I find myself saying, `Well, I don't care what happens to Any of these characters.' With this film, I found myself caring about Every character. Even the bad guys. Even the characters walking by in the background. The acting in this film is uniformly excellent. Like an ensemble theatre piece. Much has been written here about the men, but Miranda Otto as Cusack's wife is luminescent. She clearly is the light of his life, and she lights up the screen for every second of every scene she is in--who wouldn't love this woman? The actress with only one scene begging she not be burned out of her house. The actress with only one scene who comes to the aid after a carriage accident in Cheyenne. The character landscape is rich and deep. You'll recognize many venerable character actors, like the always reliable Ken Pogue as the bad judge. In the leads, John Cusack, John Goodman, and John C. McGinley invest a depth of feeling that anchors the story. L.Q. Jones and John Savage are a pair of richly textured villains. This film is a feast of fine performances, from the briefest day players to the many layered leads.
WATCH IT. A great moral translated to a western tale. I have been a fan
Cusack for some time; my first impression was that in a Western he would
be strong enough. As Myrl Redding, the strong true and moral man pushed
far, he is driven and tortured by theft and the death of his wife; and
The great thing about this movie is that L.Q. Jones' Ballard is not evil just the antagonist. This movie is filled with good people trying to do what they feel is the right thing including John Goodman as Judge Toliver. <br> The best compliment I can give is that it reminds a lot of `The Crucible' by Arthur Miller, though to be honest, I am never sure who is on the side of right . Since the movie is also set against the statehood debate there are so many subplots. Both Redding & Ballard are pushed and pulled by so many other forces, I am never quite sure to whom is delivered `More Weight' as was Giles Corey in the Crucible but the result is very watchable. That's why in the final analysis I like this film, it is not about `white hats' and black hats just sadly about flawed people.
This is an HBO original movie, but let me assure you this is of the
caliber to have been a theatrical release.
This film makes a powerful statement about the importance of standing up for what you believe in and how you cannot just say what is right, but have the courage to take action when words fail you and see justice done, whatever the cost.
The setting is the beautiful mountains and frontier country of pre-statehood Wyoming; the man is Merle Redding (John Cusack), a simple horse trainer just trying to earn a living for him and his family; the problem is a wealthy cattle rancher named Henry Ballard (L.Q. Jones) buying up all the land between the homesteads and the nearest town. Conflict arises when Merle is taking some of his horses to town to sell at the auction and needs to pass through Ballard's new spread of landpreviously unownedas it is the only way to make it to the auction on time. And that is all I will say so as to not spoil any critical elements of the movie.
The first thing that stands out about the film is that the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. I could've done without the filters, but the sights are still something to behold. The actors are well-cast; John Cusack and John Goodman really shine in their respective roles. The screenplay (written by Dick Cusack, John Cusack's father) is well-thought out and succeeds in making the film come full circle. The characters are three-dimensional and the audience can easily relate to their individual struggles. As well, the parallel editing between Cusack's 'circumstance' and the parade for Wyoming's official statehood speaks volumes...very eloquent indeed.
This film should be a lesson to all of us to remember what's important and fight for what we believe in. We cannot settle for simply saying what is right and what should be done, but stand behind what we say. It reminds us to fight for the little guy and that one person *can* make a difference.
VERDICT: A moving film about true conviction of the heart; truly inspiring. Hands down one of the best westerns I've ever seen (which is a lot). On that note, if you don't like westerns, this probably isn't the film for you, but otherwise, it's a must-see.
8.5 out of 10.0
NOTE: To anyone who loves horses, this film will hit a particular soft spot in your heartit certainly did for me
Though most likely found in the Westerns section at your local rental joint, this movie does not feel like a western. It feels like a timeless story set incidentally in the "Old West." It is, in fact, derived from another telling of the same story set in another time and another place. Regardless of that fact, "The Jack Bull" stands on its own for quality and character. All performances, from the leads to the extras, are inspired. John Cusack is in top form and earns his place in the title role. The direction, cinematography and editing are unpresumptuous but essentially flawless, as if standing aside to let the story go to your heart. And the story itself is touching and transcendent, a parable of honor, duty, pride, justice, and the price paid by those who uphold them. Neither a traditional "ride off into the sunset," nor a traditional tragedy, this film rather from beginning to end rings true and thereby sets itself apart from others like it. It comes highly recommended, and will not disappoint.
I haven't been impressed with a western in along time as I have with JACK
BULL. Terrific acting, great script and tremendous cinematography. The
setting is 19th-century, wide open pre-statehood Wyoming. A powerful tale of
a horse trader(John Cusack) seeking justice for a rival rancher(L.Q.Jones)
abusing two of his horses. Before finding a judge(John Goodman)to hear his
complaint, Cusack gives notice he wants restitution within seven days. This
inturn causes some havoc at the same time the justice system is trying to
make a good impression as the territory is awaiting statehood. You will not
like the ending, but you will agree that this is a great HBO
Cusack really proves to be an all around actor with JACK BULL. His acting abilities seems to be improving movie by movie. What I like about this role is that he wears his hat like Elvis Presley did in CHARRO!(1969). Needless to recognize the similar beginnings of a beard. Was John impressed with Elvis or what? L.Q. Jones has always been one of my favorites even if he does play a dirty s.o.b. in this movie. Jones of course as you might remember had small parts in numerous Elvis flicks. John Goodman is tight and in control of his role as Judge Tolliver. Also in the cast are:Rodney A. Grant, John C. McGinley and John Savage.
Note:Script was written by Dick Cusack, John's father.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE JACK BULL 1999
This HBO western production is far better than I was expecting. It is the tale of one man's search for justice. The cast features, John Cusak, L.Q. Jones, John C. McGinley, John Goodman, Scott Wilson, John Savage, Jay O Sanders, Miranda Otto, Glen Morshower, Rodney E Grant and Ken Pogue.
Cusak is a Wyoming horse trader and breeder. He lives with his wife, Miranda Otto and son, Drake Bell on a ranch in the mountains. Cusak, takes a yearly trip into the big horse auction in town to sell off his stock. This year he runs into a spot of bother.
The biggest land owner in the area, L.Q. Jones, has taken a dislike to Cusak. He tells Cusak it will cost him a toll to cross his land to get to the auction. Jones is fencing off the land to as he says. "stop the lowlife drifters" from crossing. Cusak has not got the toll price, but agrees to leave several fine horses with Jones. He will pay on his return and collect the horses. He also leaves a hired hand, Rodney E Grant to watch over the horses.
Cusak sells off the stock at the auction and returns to Jones' place with the fee. What he finds is his two fine horses have been used as plow horses and are in sad shape. His man, Grant, has been beaten bloody and ran off by Jones' top hand, John Savage.
Cusak demands that Jones restore the horses to the state they were in when left with him. Needless to say this goes nowhere. Now everything falls to pieces for Cusak. He hires a lawyer to seek redress, but the local judge is in Jones' pocket. The wife, Otto, sets off with the other hired hand, John C McGinley to Cheyenne to see the Attorney General. Otto gets killed by a runaway wagon while crossing a street in the capital.
Cusak decides to make his own law as the "official law" is unwilling, or unable to help. He gathers a group of like-minded men and sets off after Jones. Barns are burned to make a point, but Jones has high tailed it to Cheyenne. Of course there are several deaths and the Law is called out to chase Cusak.
You will need to watch the film to get the rest of the story. Suffice it to say it will be worth your time.
The director here is big screen veteran, John Badham. His films include, Saturday NIGHT FEVER, POINT OF NO RETURN, BLUE THUNDER, STAKEOUT, THE HARD WAY, WAR GAMES and BIRD ON A WIRE.
The cinematography was handled by Gale Tattersall. His film work includes, PUSHING TIN, TANK GIRL and GHOST SHIP.
Standing in for the mountains of Wyoming, is Calgary and Banff, Alberta, Canada. This is the same area where OPEN RANGE, UNFORGIVEN and LEGENDS OF THE FALL were filmed.
I liked the film and thought the story was solid, with strong, believable
perfomances throughout, but I have to agree with another reader who
questioned the black man's role at the dinner table.
Don't get me wrong, I bought the Indian as an integral part of Cusack's character's homestead, because the character lent himself to a fair and equitable role through his life. The Character "Ballard" however, was basically a rotten @#&^%! though, and in that day and age, would a black man have found reliable and somehow trusted place among other scoundrels let alone at this land "Baron's" table? Had the guy's race been white, it would have been totally believable, but at least for historical accuracy, I had to question this plausibility.
It probably might not have distracted from the film at all had I not read it here first, but I have to agree with the observation. Otherwise I liked the work.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'd never even heard of this film apparently it was done for HBO a
while back but it was a John Cusack film I'd never heard about, and
to me he's an interesting enough actor that I'll try something blind
for his sake.
Jack Bull is set in the 1870s; Cusack plays horse rancher Myrl Redding, an honest man trying to make an honest living on his Wyoming farm. Unfortunately he crosses paths with local tycoon Henry Ballard (L.Q. Jones), who decides to give Redding a hard time and mistreats some of his prize stallions and one of his Native American workers. When Redding demands justice, of course he finds the deck stacked against him, so he takes the law into his own hands.
Jack Bull, while a compelling story, is also an examination of the concept of 'natural' law vs. civil law, and poses some questions about just how much of a right we have as men to be treated fairly no matter the circumstances. The story could have been a moralistic whitewash, but by making Myrl less than perfect the movie aims a lot higher, with satisfactory but occasionally unsettling results. It would be easy to just take the side of the little man against the big rich fella (like they did in, say, Silver City) and here it's not hard to do that. But Myrl's complexity and his occasional slips he's no saint, though he tries hard to do no damage to the innocent render this story in much darker, richer colors than lesser hands would have.
Cusack is excellent here, as he usually is. His uncompromising performance as Myrl dominates the picture, and Cusack displays the man's drive and determined nature without ever overdoing it or descending into melo-drama. Most of the rest of the cast is fairly strong as well (I particularly enjoyed Scrubs' John C. McGinley's turn as simple sidekick Woody), with a standout turn by John Goodman as a dedicated lawman named Judge Tolliver. The end trial, as a result, is a powerful capper to a movie that questions moral choices throughout.
Though a darker film, Jack Bull is an excellent piece, with well thought-out characters, motivation, and execution. It offers no easy answers, though it does conclude its story with finality, and in the end only reinforces that the consequences we suffer are a direct result of the actions we take. This one may be a little hard to find (I got it from Netflix), but it's certainly well worth the search.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Excellent Western and I was surprised it was made for TV. Well directed and superbly acted. John Cusack is a convincing rancher whose rights have been wronged. The movie seemed, to this English viewer, to have a solid ring of authenticity about it. It made a real change to see a legal dispute in the 'old West' result in the parties using the law and not the gun. John Goodman was an excellent Judge whose commitment to the law meant in the end he had to sentence Cusack to hang. We are left with the feeling that, despite it all, justice was served. I was particularly impressed with the art direction and the costume. The locations were also beautiful and evoked a longing for those Western wide open spaces
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