Taken West Style
Sam Paxton (Ernest Borgnine) returns home from a trip to town with his wife only to discover that his son has been murdered and his daughter Becky (Connie Kreski) has been taken, probably by a gang of bandits who have been causing trouble in the surrounding area. Whilst Sheriff Naylor (Jim Davis) and a couple of men come to help Sam find his daughter he also writes to an old friend, a tracker, for help but in his place arrives deputy US Marshal Ezekiel Smith (Sammy Davis Jr.) an African American. Ezekiel believes it was Indians rather than bandits who took Becky but he has trouble as neither Sam nor the Sheriff wants to take the advice of a coloured stranger even if he seems to know what he is talking about.
"Shenandoah" it isn't but there is some thing about "The Trackers" which ends up more engaging than you expect it to be from a 70s TV movie. I say that because "The Trackers" features a simple and mostly predictable storyline where we have a handful of Americans who to put it simply are racists, not liking to be ordered around by anyone who isn't white whether or not they are respected members of society or not. But what we get is a friendship which forms between rancher Sam and tracker Ezekiel as they work together to track and retrieve Sam's daughter who in a stereotypical fashion has been taken by Indians. At the same time we get a glimpse at the general issues of race as we have saloons which won't serve Ezekiel, Sam whilst befriending Ezekiel still has racist tendencies and so on.
The thing is that whilst "The Trackers" is entertaining and buoyed by a cast of famous faces whilst also having its heart in the right place with its storyline about racism and respect it is still a made for TV movie. Now that isn't the issue so much but it does feel like those making this movie were more keen on just making a movie rather than really telling the story and bringing the racial issues to life. It has that hurried feel with a sense that the actors were just told to act tough, mean, moody or look quizzical. It is a shame because in the right hands this could have been quite good and those right hands at one point could have seen John Wayne playing the part Ernest Borgnine played alongside Sammy Davis Jr. and also would have seen Burt Kennedy directing.
What this all boils down to is that "The Trackers" is entertaining if you are a fan of old westerns. But it is a movie which feels it was made as a job rather than because those involved wanted to really bring the storyline to life.