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Set after the American Civil War in the 1870s, 'Texas Rangers' is a story about a group of men determined to maintain peace and contain the chaos that is erupting on the Texan frontier. Native Americans are attempting to reclaim their land, Mexicans are pouring over the U.S. border, and renegade outlaws are tearing up the state, so the Texas Rangers swear to protect the innocent and their loved. To do so, they must be willing to maintain the peace where law enforcement cannot, fight while they are out-manned and out-armed by the opponent, and be willing to die for the freedom for which they fight. Written by
The film was in development for many, many years. In its earliest stages, it was planned as a directorial project for Sam Peckinpah. See more »
The film is supposed to take place along the Nueces Strip, the coastal line from Nueces County to Brownsville. However, the film frequently shows hills and mountains, which are not found within 200 miles of the Nueces Strip. See more »
The sort of thing that Hollywood used to churn out by the dozen
In 1875, ten years after the end of the Civil War, Texas, especially the area along the Mexican border, is a wild, lawless place where ranchers and homesteaders are frequently threatened by bandits. The State Governor therefore decides to re-create the Texas Rangers, who had been disbanded after the Civil War, to uphold the law. The film follows the exploits of a company of Rangers led by Leander McNelly. The villain of the story is John King Fisher, the leader of a gang of outlaws who specialise in stealing cattle and then fleeing into Mexico, where the stolen cattle are sold to the Mexican army. The gang are ruthless killers, who have no compunction about murdering unarmed civilians in cold blood. It came as no surprise to discover that the film is loosely based on fact and that McNelly and King Fisher were real historical figures; "Leander McNelly" did not sound like the sort of name any scriptwriter would invent for a fictitious character. The film allegedly takes some liberties with the historical record, but these are unlikely to upset anyone other than experts on Texan history.
Although the Texas Rangers are, strictly speaking, a law enforcement agency rather than a military unit, the film bears more resemblance to a war movie than to a cop film. The plot is that old staple of war movies, the one about the tough, experienced commander who takes a group of raw recruits (most of them are young men with little or no experience of guns or policing crime) and turns them into a crack fighting unit. In their initial battle with the bandits, the Rangers fall into a trap, and many of the young and ill-trained men are killed. Nevertheless they regroup, attract new recruits and face off against Fisher and his men in a final showdown.
The film is directed by Steve Miner, previously known to me only as the man who made "Lake Placid", a dreadful horror-comedy unlikely to appeal to anyone other than those who feel that there is something inherently hilarious about someone getting their head bitten off by a gigantic crocodile. Fortunately, Miner makes no attempt to inject comedy elements into "Texas Rangers", and it is a better film than "Lake Placid", although that is not really saying much.
The past few years have seen something of a revival of the Western genre. Many recent Westerns ("Dances with Wolves", "Unforgiven", "Wyatt Earp", "3.10 to Yuma") have been grand films made on an epic scale, but "Texas Rangers" is a much more modest, small-scale effort, more reminiscent of the old Western B-movies. Its total running time is very short for a twenty-first century film- the version I saw on British television recently only ran to eighty minutes. It is essentially a good-guys-versus-bad-guys Western of the old school with plenty of action and gunplay but without any deep significance. There are occasional attempts to inject a note of moral ambiguity- McNelly can be uncompromising in his methods- but there is little doubt that he and his men wear the metaphorical white hats and the Fisher gang the black ones. This is the sort of thing that Hollywood used to churn out by the dozen in the forties and fifties. 5/10
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