Sam Elliott and Tom Selleck in The Shadow Riders (1982)

The Moustache Duo Ride Again

With the war over Mac Traven (Tom Selleck - Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt) who thought on the Union side is celebrating with his men in a town whilst his brother Dal (Sam Elliott - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) who sided with the Confederates is facing a firing squad. Thankfully some rebel Confederates rescue Dal in the nick of time and he finds himself reuniting with his brother Mac who saves him when he has another brush with death. But when they return home they discover that a band of rebel confederates lead by Major Cooper Ashbury (Geoffrey Lewis) have kidnapped their younger brother and his girlfriend to sell on in order to buy weapons. With the aid of their Uncle 'Black Jack' Traven (Ben Johnson) they set about rescuing their kin.

It's been proven over the years that if you have the right actors in a movie even something not great can entertain the pants of an audience. That is how I feel about "The Shadow Riders" as it is the moustached duo of Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot who along with an impressive supporting cast which includes the likes of Geoffrey Lewis and Ben Johnson make the movie. If you took the actors out of the equation what you end up with is an okay made for TV western but nothing special.

Geoffrey Lewis in The Shadow Riders (1982)

Now in fairness the basic storyline of brothers who having fought for opposing sides reuniting and then going on a rescue mission to get their little brother back isn't bad. Okay so it is not that original either as without even trying I can think of many westerns where family go hunting for the people who kidnapped their kin but it is a solid vehicle to build upon. Unfortunately what is built upon the story bones is often silly, not funny silly but stupidly silly which makes "The Shadow Riders" at times hard work.

But as I said "The Shadow Riders" has the right cast and the duo of Selleck and Elliott are perfect when it comes to the western genre. Elliott has the perfect deep voice whilst Selleck has that element of comical charm which when combined makes for lots of fun. Throw on top of that some western old timers such as Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. plus others such as Katharine Ross who are remembered for a western or two and it is the likeability of the actors and what they bring to their characters which makes this western watchable and at times fun.

As for the direction well Andrew V. McLaglen knows a thing or two about westerns but I would imagine working in the confines of a TV movie was too much of a limit as his usual sense of action and fun doesn't quite materialize. It also doesn't help that the editing is bog standard at times feels clunky, making the story lack the flow it deserves.

What this all boils down to is that "The Shadow Riders" is entertaining and for a movie over 30 years old doesn't look it. But it is a western less about being a western but more about the likeability of its stars to make it entertaining.