Robert Ryan and Rock Hudson in Horizons West

Ryan's Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The best thing about "Horizons West" is that director Budd Boetticher knows that the storyline is not that amazing and so delivers a western which trots along at a reasonable pace delivering one dramatic scene after another until in typical western fashion you get the big showdown. Now in a way that could be quite disappointing as "Horizons West" is basically a story about greed, about a soldier returning from the Civil War and wanting riches and wanting it now, but there is absolutely no depth to it. But because Boetticher just gives us the drama with out building character, motive and basically story it works as a light bit of western entertainment, the sort which you can watch to pass an hour or so and then pretty much forget.

Having been away fighting in the war for the past 4 years, brothers Neil (Rock Hudson - Bend of the River) and Dan Hammond (Robert Ryan - The Wild Bunch) return home to the family ranch with their friend Tiny (James Arness) to pick up where they left off. But whilst Neil is more than happy to work on the ranch Dan wants more, he wants to get rich quick and after being humiliated at the hand of local businessman Cord Hardin (Raymond Burr) joins up with a bunch of former soldiers to become cattle rustlers. But rustling cattle is not enough as greed takes over Dan's life causing him to become an evil landowner and murderer. And as it becomes apparent to his family that Dan has turned bad Neil sets about trying to bring him to order.

Julie Adams and Robert Ryan in Horizons West

Whilst "Horizons West" starts with the set up of brothers Dan and Neil returning from war with their friend and ranch hand Tiny most of the movie is about Dan and his want of it all. As already mentioned there is no depth to this, no real motive other than maybe a bit of jealousy but we basically watch Dan turn from a good guy to a bad guy, leading a bunch of cattle rustlers and making it rich quickly. And his thirst for wealth doesn't stop there as he becomes a murderer and land stealer all of which is to be honest not that original. This of course builds to a big climax where his brother and father have to take action to try and stop him. To put it simply there is nothing which is unexpected when it comes to this storyline of greed.

Maybe because director Budd Boetticher saw "Horizons West" as just another western that he made it one dramatic scene after another with no real story telling in between, maybe Louis Stevens story was written this way. But it kind of works because it is so well paced that the shallowness of the story is never really a problem as we get one dramatic scene after another. Having said that I do wonder how good this western about greed could have been if it had been expanded on as the basic storyline is interesting.

As for the acting well whilst there is Rock Hudson, Raymond Burr, John McIntire, Julie Adams and Judith Braun "Horizons West" basically belongs to Robert Ryan as Dan. And it has to be said that whilst Ryan leads the movie nicely the character of Dan is as 2 dimensional as they come and as such is seriously forgettable. But then so are all the characters in the movie and is part of the reason why it's entertaining but ultimately forgettable.

What this all boils down to is that "Horizons West" whilst an entertaining western is also a very average one, with no depth and nothing overly memorable about it. The potential to be good is there with its tale of greed but the potential isn't explored and instead there is just plenty of generic acion, acting and drama.