Love Finds His Father
If I had never watched a modern made for TV western before I would be spitting feathers after watching "Shadow on the Mesa" as it takes some standard western ideas and turns them into a slushy western melodrama. But I have watched quite a few of these modern western melodramas and whilst "Shadow on the Mesa" is often on the cheesy side it is on par with those other westerns which both stars of this one, Wes Brown and Kevin Sorbo, have also appeared in. What does that mean well for western fans "Shadow on the Mesa" is pleasure and pain because in an age where westerns are rarely made it is always good to have a new one unfortunately the cheesy side, the typically sentimental TV side will end up causing either laughter or anger.
Bounty hunter Wes Rawlins (Wes Brown - Love Begins) returns home to discover his mother has been killed and learns from his grand-parents the truth that the father he has never known and thought was dead is still alive and may be connected to her death. Setting off to find his father Ray Eastman (Kevin Sorbo - The Santa Suit) he finds himself in the midst of a feud between Eastman and local land owner Peter Dowdy (Greg Evigan) who is trying to force Ray to sell up and is in cahoots with Ray's wife Mona (Gail O'Grady) to get him to leave the land. Realising that his father is innocent and didn't even know that he had a son let alone that his mum had not died many years earlier as Ray thought, Wes helps his father defend his land from Dowdy and his henchmen.
You can sum up "Shadow on the Mesa" by saying that someone who knows their westerns has cherry picked ideas and characters in order to create a story whilst adding a couple of modern touches. So those cherry picked ideas come with the unoriginal land battle as Pete Dowdy is trying to get Ray to sell up and leave using his own corrupt sons to put pressure on him. Alongside this we also have Ray's wife Mona who is not a ranch woman and is in cahoots with Dowdy because she would prefer to move back to the city with Ray and their children. The two are worked together quite nicely with Mona being deceptive and a woman who will manipulate people to get what she wants but if you know your westerns you will end up thinking back to earlier westerns which used the same ideas.
There is the more original element, the more modern idea of Wes discovering his father is still alive and tracking him down. It is shall we say the more melodramatic side as it naturally leads to some emotional scenes as Ray discovers the woman he loved had not died when he thought and that he has a son. But that it is not the only melodrama and like other modern made for TV westerns the general tone of "Shadow on the Mesa" is more romantic melodrama than gritty western. This is where if you like your westerns dirty and gritty you will end up spitting feathers because everything is beautiful especially the framing of camera shots which often linger on Wes as he stares down the barrel of his gun. But in fairness it is on par with other more recent made for TV westerns and if you enjoy these movies you will certainly enjoy this.
The acting is also on par with other recent made for TV westerns which is not such a huge shock seeing that both Wes Brown and Kevin Sorbo have appeared in a few of these easy going western movies. They're not bad performances for the tone of the movie and to be honest both Sorbo and Brown are well cast for their characters. In fairness all the actors from Barry Corbin as Wes's Grandpa Jake to Shannon Lucio as his half sister Rosalie are well cast because they fit with the style of the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Shadow on the Mesa" is a very typical modern made for TV western which mixes old story ideas with a melodramatic tone. It is not a great western but if you enjoy these modern TV takes on a western it will entertain.