[SPOILER ALERT: This review reveals elements of the movie’s plot. Do not read on if you intend to watch the movie. Angel and the Badman premieres Sunday, July 5 at 9/8c on The Hallmark Channel.]
Remakes are a dime a dozen in the cinematic world these days. Whether it’s a TV series, a novel, a musical, or an older movie, Hollywood loves to churn out new versions of past products. The Western found moderate success with the remake of 3:10 to Yuma starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe; but Ed Harris had less box office success with his adaptation of the Western novel Appaloosa.
While the Western’s longevity on the big screen from the very genesis of cinema has resulted in its sad demise in that medium, it has been resuscitated thanks to TV. Even the early days of television brought the Western into homes all across the country.
TV series like Bonanza and Gunsmoke were classic TV Westerns. Contemporary audiences can recall The Young Riders, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and the post-modern Western world of Deadwood (created by NYPD Blue’s David Milch).
And, thanks to miniseries, like Lonesome Dove, Westerns have also been given life in the form of TV movies.
Enter Angel and the Badman, a remake of the 1947 classic starring the iconic John Wayne. This TV movie stars Lou Diamond Phillips, Luke Perry, and Brendan Wayne (John Wayne’s grandson). How does this remake fare?
Unfortunately, not that well. The conventions and archetypes of the Western are all in play here. Each is utilized to form a convincing world for the characters to inhabit. At issue here is the “love story,” which seems to come out of nowhere and has little or no motivation for its existence.
After being shot in the gut, Quirt Evans is picked up by a group of peace-loving Quakers who take him in and nurse him back to health. While there, he grows close to Temperance, a single mother, who lives with her parents.
Here’s the problem:
There’s no motivation for the romantic relationship that quickly develops between Quirt and Temperance. Is this poor woman so desperate to find a man that she will fall for a killer? Perhaps it’s an indictment of Quaker society that a repressed woman would look at a violent sociopath as a potential mate.
I wanted more of an introduction to the Temperance character. Is she rebellious by nature? Does she always go against the grain and do what her heart tells her and not what the Quaker community dictates?
As a character she is underdeveloped, which in turn makes her interest and eventual love for Quirt all the more unrealistic. Even a brief scene of her doing something non-Quaker like at the start of the film would have given some insight into her character’s true nature.
Now, I understand that this is a TV movie and we are pressed for time due to commercials. However, I continued to have this feeling that chunks of story and plot elements were being either shortchanged or excluded altogether to the detriment of the film.
Here’s a few examples:
It’s amazing how fast Quirt turns a new leaf and becomes like a member of the family. Perhaps the tales of his past transgressions were the stuff of myth and legend. In a flash, Quirt Evans becomes the muscle for the Quakers. He’s a patron saint of peace and tranquility with a gun on his hip. Later, he doesn’t even have the gun; an object that meant so much to him and his life.
Quirt never really encompasses the title character of “The Badman.” He’s certainly no Ben Wade from 3:10 to Yuma (1957 or 2007). People stop by and mention Quirt’s past; even try and intimidate him and the Quakers. But neither seem affected by these encounters.
Quirt may be a stranger in a strange land, but he adapts and assimilates at an accelerated rate. Even as a fish-out-of-water, his sinful ways become a thing of the past as the Quakers become a more prominent influence in his life.
While this “opposites attract” love story moves forward, other characters come and go so fast that we never get a sense of who they are. As a result, conflict in the story suffers as well as any connection and ties to Quirt and his past.
Brendan Wayne plays Randy, Quirt’s former partner. His primary function is as estranged sidekick, but also as comic relief. Like Luke Perry’s character, he’s underutilized. It would have been nice if Randy had been more of a thorn in Quirt’s side. A guy from his past that just won’t go away and tries to influence him to go back to his wild ways. Even with the saloon scenes, there’s no sense of true camaraderie between the two characters.
Luke Perry plays Quirt’s nemesis Loredo, but he’s in the film so briefly that it’s hard to pinpoint where the conflict lies between the two. We find out there was a dispute over some land, but that is quickly abated early in the film. The intensity of the lease-signing scene is enough to get you up out of your seat. Suspense at its finest.
I would have liked to have seen more intense moments between Loredo and Quirt. If these two are enemies, then it needs to be shown more on screen. Throughout the film there’s an undercurrent of violence that never comes to fruition. This is especially true in the final scene.
The climactic battle at the end of the film between Quirt and Loredo goes the way of the clichéd dues ex machina, which is “a plot device in which a person or thing appears “out of the blue” to help a character to overcome a seemingly insolvable difficulty” (Wikipedia.org).
I was hoping that Temperance would grab Quirt’s gun and blow away Loredo and his men. That would have been acceptable. Having the Sheriff, who had only been in two previous scenes, save the day seemed a bit trite and simplistic in its execution.
I understand that this is a Western film on the Hallmark Channel. I’m not expecting a gratuitous violence, sex, or bad language. What I do expect is a solid story with interesting characters and believable relationships. Without the presence of gratuitous violence, sex, or bad language, the lack of these other elements becomes glaring and obvious.
If you are a fan of Westerns and have seen the 1947 original, I recommend you watch this version and compare the two. If you haven’t seen the original, I recommend it (You can watch it below, via HULU.com).
**Click here for my interview with Brendan Wayne, John Wayne’s grandson!
For Western fans, I also recommend:
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: The Centennial Collection
El Dorado: The Centennial Collection