Going on Too Long
Luke Shasta (Robert Forster) and his wife Jill (Linda Evans), with the help of Lonny (Will Sampson), are trying their best to make their ranch a success. The trouble is that Major Roland Hartline (Chuck Connors) wants what Luke has and not just his wife as he also wants him to sell him his ranch and come and work for him. When Luke turns him down he finds things getting increasingly tougher discovering that Hartline has stolen one of his bulls, when they go to sell their cattle they are offered less than they are worth and end up down to their last $250. And things just go from bad to worse with Luke ending up in jail for assault. But when Hartline takes things to the next level Luke and Jill are going to have to stand tall to keep what is theirs.
"Standing Tall" is the sort of western which if you watched as a child when it was first aired might still have some sort of rose tinted charm about it as in it makes you think of your childhood. But if you don't have that connection to the movie then what "Standing Tall" ends up is a walk through that old story of a rancher having to deal with someone using every trick in the book to force them off their land. It is the sort of storyline which 40 years earlier could quite easily have seen Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy or any old western star ride in to town to help the struggling rancher deal with the bad guy trying to steal their land.
But "Standing Tall" doesn't feature a singing cowboy with a talented horse to ride in to the rescue and is more a case of watching Luke Shasta and those close to him deal in an upright manner what ever is thrown at him. So we have a stolen bull, undervalued stock, a crooked bank manager, racism and plenty more until it turns in to a violent attack on him and his loved ones. But it makes it a movie which feels drawn out as it throws one cliche at you after another.
The thing is that whilst the storyline to "Standing Tall" does little for me the performance from Robert Forster did. Forster plays the part of Luke Shasta in a down to earth manner, no bells or whistles or moments of out of character heroics, just a hard working man protecting his own and it fits perfectly with the general feel of the movie. And Forster has some pleasant support in the seemingly always smiling Linda Evans and Will Sampson in the sort of role Graham Greene would have played if this had been made a few years later.
What this all boils down to is that "Standing Tall" comes across like a western cliche, a staple story which is dragged out sadly beyond the point of being entertaining as it throws every cliche in to the mix. It is a shame as Robert Forster delivers a nicely controlled, down to earth performance which deserved to have been in a better movie.