Having been released from jail Keenan Deerfield (Lou Diamond Phillips) heads to a town where the Marshall is prepared to give him another chance and helps him get a job working for the mining company run by Samuel Drigger (Warren Stevens) who has too much control over the town. Knowing that he has to keep his nose clean Keenan tries to avoid trouble but when another miner starts beating on his girl Keenan can't just let it happen and steps in. It makes him an enemy and when Keenan starts helping out local ranch owner Eugene (Ernest Borgnine) as well it is only a matter of time before trouble is going to come looking for him.
I'm a fan of westerns especially from the era where they dominated cinema but these days it is slim pickings when it comes to new westerns, that is unless you watch those which are made for TV. Now judging a made for TV western such as "The Trail to Hope Rose" against even a b-movie western from the 50s is unfair because they are different beasts with these modern made for TV westerns often being about old fashioned entertainment with a high level of innocence and morals. So having said that if I told you that "The Trail to Hope Rose" is a good movie it is only in comparison to other made for TV westerns and delivers that blend of a familiar western storyline but in a sweet and innocent way.
So in many ways "The Trail to Hope Rose" is a spot on cliche western as we have Keenan the ex con looking to go straight, Samuel Drigger who is a crooked businessman who has his henchmen scare people in to doing what he wants plus there is Eugene, the good old guy who won't give up his ranch to Drigger despite him putting on the pressure. Now those are the three main cliches and as such it is no surprise when I say that Keenan ends up helping Eugene and becomes a thorn in the side of the Drigger clan forcing him to take action.
But there are other things going on in "The Trail to Hope Rose" including what is partly a typical romantic subplot because of course Keenan has to find love but in this case it has a few simple twists to it. We also have Jack who befriends Keenan and in doing so finds himself becoming an enemy to the Driggers like Keenan and just for good measure we have Marshall Toll who hopes Keenan will keep his nose clean and make a fresh start. None of which is that original and certainly has no complexity because all we get are some easy worked story ideas which never stray from being predictable but because there is a surprising amount going on it helps to keep "The Trail to Hope Rose" entertaining.
Now as already mentioned "The Trail to Hope Rose" is the new breed of made for TV westerns and as such is never about being dark, gritty or realistic but simple, inoffensive entertainment for those who just want an easy to watch western, a typically weekday afternoon movie. As such it works with a nice mix of actors from old timers Ernest Borgnine and Warren Stevens to younger stars such as Marina Black and Jonathan Murphy with the likes of Lou Diamond Phillips, Lee Majors and Richard Tyson filling the middle ground. None of their characters have any depth and in some cases such as Borgnine as Eugene are more of a western caricature with his over the top reactions but the nice guys are nice, the women are pretty and the bad guys are typically drunk or have facial scars. And at the same time it has that simple moral base where good guys win, bad guys lose, nice guys fall in love and everyone who deserves it lives happily every after. It means it is cheesy compared to the westerns of the 50s but it is exactly what it sets out to be, which is a pleasant afternoon western.
What this all boils down to is that don't watch "The Trail to Hope Rose" if you are expecting some classic, gritty western but do watch it if you enjoy the simple made for TV westerns of recent years which are nice and easy but a little bit cheesy.