Dawson's Beek Ushers in Rangers
There is a simple way to describe "Texas Rangers", it's as if someone loved the youthfulness of "Young Guns" and tried to give us another youthful western. We may have a different storyline as the focus is on a group of young men becoming Texas Rangers but in essence we have young Hollywood talent hitting the range to try and make westerns cool for a younger audience. Try being the operative word because like "Young Guns" "Texas Rangers" is a pretty western where there maybe dust, dirt and deaths but the young stars no matter how much trouble they go through always seem to look pretty. And that is just one of the problems which dogs "Texas Rangers" a western which in fact has some good performances and a good storyline but ends up ignoring them in the search of making westerns cool for a young audience who may never have watched one before.
Having witnessed his family gunned down at the hands of John King Fisher (Alfred Molina - Chocolat) and his bandits, Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek) travels across country, hooking up with George Durham (Ashton Kutcher - Down to You) along the way, as he aims to get to Brownsville and sign up as a Texas Ranger to get justice the legal way. Despite not being a gun man, leader of the Texas Rangers Leander McNelly (Dylan McDermott - Three to Tango) decides to allow Lincoln to join because he has the passion and along with George they hit the trail with the Rangers learning as they go along, searching for Fisher and his ruthless bandits.
To be honest I like the storyline to "Texas Rangers" despite it being very stereotypical and generic, drawn from the westerns of the 40s, 50s and 60s. The familiarity works so whilst there is no surprise that having watched his family brutally gunned down that Lincoln Rogers Dunnison decides to join the Texas Rangers in order to get justice it is sort of semi believable. And whilst generic the variety of characters he makes friends with from the easy going George Durham through to the token coloured cowboy full of attitude Randolph Douglas Scipio fits in with what you sort of expect. But what makes it nice is the relationship which forms between Lincoln and leader of the Texas Rangers Leander McNelly as he is ill and becomes more and more aggressive as they hunt down Fisher's bandits. This element is slightly similar to what happens in the much greater "Red River" but it adds a deeper angle to things.
But the annoyance is that whilst "Texas Rangers" has all the bits in place to make for a thoroughly entertaining western it never fully explores them. Whilst that relationship between Lincoln and Leander adds something it could have been explored to a greater depth. And then there is the generic love interest which raises its head as both Lincoln and George find themselves flirting with the pretty Caroline Dukes but nothing ever really comes of it. Plus there is the action, action which is dramatic but also cheesy and never seems to go that one more step to becoming memorable.
The trouble is that "Texas Rangers" isn't really about delivering a great western but about placing some up and coming actors in a western to see if it will help make them stars in the same way that "Young Guns" helped establish the then Brat Pack. So that means amongst the handsome young faces on show we have James Van Der Beek, Ashton Kutcher, Rachael Leigh Cook and even Usher, all there trying to look tough and authentic but never quite achieving it. It doesn't help that no matter how many gun battles they come through or dusty trails they ride across they always look so pretty, it is so wrong and frankly quite cheesy. I suppose for those who just want to watch their favourite teen drama actors on the big screen it will work but for those who wanted something more real it ends up very wrong.
The knock on effect of this is that those actors who do a reasonable job of delivering something close to a real cowboy end up getting less screen time. Dylan McDermott may end up looking too handsome in far too many scenes but as Leander McNelly he does get across this man whose own moral judgement is becoming impaired as he dishes out punishment on those they go after. And whilst mainly in the back ground Robert Patrick at least has the roughness you expect from a man who rides the trail. The same can be said of Alfred Molina as bad guy Fisher because whilst he over plays the villainous side of his character, smiling far too often, at least he looks like a man who lives life on the run.
What this all boils down to is that "Texas Rangers" is not so much a western but just a vehicle for trying to establish up and coming young talent. It means that whilst there is a western storyline and as such there are those expected moments of action as well as romance "Texas Rangers" is all about the likes of James Van Der Beek, Ashton Kutcher, Rachael Leigh Cook and Usher looking good rather than looking believable. Honestly "Texas Rangers" is not terrible but most certainly a western for those who like these young stars and not for those who are fans of the western genre.