If you’re determined to conjure up a new Western, you could do worse than borrowing from a couple of classics.
Start by throwing in a stagecoach and its assorted passengers from the Ur Western, “Stagecoach.” Stage your climax, drawn out “Mexican Stand-Off” style, straight out of “Rio Bravo.”
Be to sure add that burning question of every “Let’s give the good guys as easy an easy out” screenwriter in the genre.
“Got any dynamite?”
And fill the screen with “types” — an ancient freight waggoneer, a crack shot old coot, a whole family that’s gone bad and a young gun that scares even them.
“Last Shoot Out” doesn’t exactly live up to the promise of its title. The shoot-outs are pale imitations of even the lamest B-Westerns of late era syndicated TV — “Guns of Paradise” comes to mind.
The plot is straight-up formula, the dialogue either cornpone without the polish or tin-eared and anachronistic.
I don’t think we ever heard Hank or the Duke, Mitchum or Randolph Scott complain, “I think I’m concussed!”
Still, it’s a well-costumed and properly set sagebrush stand-off with a mostly-unknown cast, but with two well-known villains.
Screen legend Bruce Dern is the patriarch of the Callahans, “a pretty rough bunch” one and all agree, and Dern — the villain who famously killed John Wayne in “The Cowboys” — always gives good value, even in his twilight years.
Cam Gigandet plays his tougher, older son.
And as is the way of low-low budget fare, the “names” have limited scenes (shot in a few days) and less to say and do than the unknown leads. Pity.
Skylar Witte plays the bride, fleeing marriage into a clan that she realizes gunned-down her daddy. Peter Sherayko is Red, the freight wagon driver who spies her, down to her dust-covered bloomers, out on the trail. And Brock Harris is a “kid” named “Billy,” fast with a gun and notorious for that, a passenger
They face fast-gin Sid (Gigandet) and his man Twigs (Jay Pickett) over Jocelyn, the runaway bride. Somebody’s gun is sure to be shot right out of his hands. Before anybody can say “This ain’t over,” we realize this ain’t over.
There’s nothing for it but to dash to Ryker’s Station, a stage-coach stop, to hole up and get the escapee onto a northbound coach. There’ll be one coming along in a week, well after the south bound one breaks down and driver and his two passengers join the Rykers (David DeLuise, Keikilani Grune) and the bride and her protectors as the Callahans, egged on by the gutless groom, Jody (Michael Welch) bear down on them — repeatedly.
Wait for it. Wait. Wait...”Got any dynamite?”
The first fatal flaw to pop up is the “five days earlier” and “two days later” and so on inter-titles that show up on screen. A compressed time-frame sets up a ticking-clock thriller, with rising suspense as the heroes try to run out the clock and the villains try to beat it. Think “3:10 to Yuma” and the like.
Director Michael Feifer and screenwriter Lee Martin serve up a slow jam of a Western with no “jam” to it. The picture walks when it should sprint, or at the very least canter. It’s deathly slow.
The topline cast is a pretty tepid bunch, the “drama” strictly pro forma. Brock Burnett plays a cowardly clothing salesman coach-passenger who doesn’t want to “get involved, everybody else, womenfolk included, is quick to declare her or his firearm bonafides.
The action, the actual shoot-outs, are weak tea. There’s little drama or suspense to these scenes, and even the violence can seem arm’s length removed. Characters with alleged military experience have never been taught or at least seen other Westerns where the phrase “COVER me” came up. Everybody’s a crack shot and yet most are reluctant to shoot, even to pin down the riflemen picking off this or that character. Not that many good guys have to worry about that.
The whole affair has a very consistent look, as if every scene was filmed at about ten in the morning. One twilight exchange of fire has outside footage that doesn’t match the harsh broad daylight piercing the cracks in the walls and roof of Ryker’s Station.
If you want to get your stars out to that remote coach station, you have to give them a shed to shoot from, so that they don’t dehydrate or get too much sun. Dern’s getting on up there, after all. The man guest-starred on “Gunsmoke,” for Pete’s sake.
But at least he’s in here, ornery as ever, giving fair value even if his dialogue isn’t quotable in the least. If this turns out to be his last Western, his “Last Shoot Out,” the old coot does what he always has. He gets out unscathed, never embarrassing himself.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and bloody images
Cast: Brock Harris, Skylar Witte, Peter Sherayko, Jay Pickett, David DeLuise, Caia Coley, Keikilani Grune, Larry Bestpitch, Larry Poole, Cam Gigandet and Bruce Dern
Credits: Directed by Michael Feifer, scripted by Lee Martin. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 1:26