Patrick Stewart in King of Texas (2002)

Shakespeare Heads West

For those who are unaware "King of Texas" is a western update of Shakespeare's "King Lear" but in truth you do not need to be a Shakespeare fan to appreciate it. In fact I would say not being a Shakespeare fan is probably a good thing because then you are not bothered about what has been changed in the adapting of the story. But whilst "King of Texas" is entertaining it is not without its issues and sadly most of them come from having Patrick Stewart a British actor who can play Shakespeare asked to play him as a Texan, it just doesn't ring true. What that means is that "King of Texas" ends up in a strange middle ground where it isn't Shakespeare yet not really a western which makes it interesting but not something you would go out of your way to watch more than once.

Having spent his life building up the Lear ranch, the aging John Lear (Patrick Stewart - X-Men) decides it is time to divide it up between his daughters; Susannah, Rebecca and Claudia (Marcia Gay Harden, Lauren Holly and Julie Cox). But firstly he wants to hear how much they love him which Susannah and Rebecca obligingly do in order to get a good chunk of his land but Claudia refuses as she feels love should be noticed rather than spoken and in a moment of rage John disowns her forcing Claudia to leave the Lear ranch and live with the Mexicans. Over time Susannah and Rebecca get greedy and plot to take over the entire ranch and after losing everything John is sent out into the wilderness where he is rescued by Claudia.

Roy Scheider in King of Texas (2002)

There is much more to the story than I covered in that short plot outline and I am sure fans of Shakespeare's King Lear will already know how the story plays out. But the thing is that for those like me who are not Shakespeare fans what we have is an interesting drama about a man who has forgotten what love really is through being so business focussed and then betrayed by his own daughters. When you don't already know "King Lear" this story comes to life of a man who loses everything and keeps you interested in how it will play out

But whilst interesting "King of Texas" is not without plenty of issues starting with Patrick Stewart playing Texas rancher John Lear. I can only presume that who ever came up with this idea of turning Shakespeare into a Western felt they needed someone who could do Shakespeare to play the main role. It doesn't quite work as Stewart doesn't have the grit to be convincing as a man who has built an empire the hard way. Oh he certainly delivers the Shakespearean side of things but as I said doesn't convince as a rancher.

That leads me to the next issue because "King of Texas" ends up in this strange middle ground where it isn't Shakespeare but isn't western either. It has the Shakespearean storyline and the western look but it is all only on the surface. Like Stewart it doesn't have the grit to feel like a real western meaning it is pretty to look at with a good looking cast including Julia Cox, Lauren Holly and Marcia Gay Harden.

What this all boils down to is that "King of Texas" is an entertaining attempt to turn Shakespeare's "King Lear" into a western but it doesn't quite come off as it fills a strange middle ground between not being Shakespeare and not being an authentic western. Don't get me wrong as it is worth watching but not more than once.