The hallmark of blandness
A lot of Westerns came out in 2007, luckily. There was the outstanding Assassination of Jesse James… of course and also a quality remake of 3:10 to Yuma as well as the terrific little Last Stand at Saber River. Seraphim Falls had its points. And so on. All very encouraging. There was some lighter fare too and Avenging Angel falls into this category. A made-for-TV film run by Hallmark, it is a very Pale Rider or, as the star says in an interview on the DVD, Pale Rider meets Death Wish.
Directed by David S Cass Sr. and written by William Sims Myers, it is pretty standard stuff. A town is treed by an evil rancher Col. Cusak (Wings Hauser) who runs off squatters. A Clint-referenced preacher with no name played by the movie’s star, Kevin Sorbo (Hercules in many flicks; this is his first Western) bravely stands up to the thugs who dynamite his church and kill his wife and daughter. He becomes a bounty hunter seeking ‘justice’ and then comes back to the town. There he meets a saloon woman, Maggie (Cynthia Watros), with a little daughter and of course it’s lerve. New squatters arrive, peaceable chaps with no guns. The wicked colonel sends the corrupt sheriff (Nick Chinlund) to kill them. Kevin fights for right. You may imagine how it turns out.
So no surprises, nothing remarkable really. And all a bit bland. As Sorbo says, “It’s Hallmark. You can’t be too explicit.” It’s pleasant enough escapism, I suppose, 81 minutes of Westernism. The acting is competent. The scenery’s quite nice (California) although far from remarkable. Some of the photography by Maximo Munzi is decent. The music (Joe Kraemer) is unnoticeable, which can be a blessing. And I guess it does sort of think about where the line between justice and vengeance lies. Sort of. You’d have to be a Western junky actually to buy it, though. Which is why I saw it, of course.
Hallmark. Tarantino it ain't.
The clothes are poor and are very obviously costumes. The set design is cut price. There are plot holes – why doesn’t anyone recognize him when he comes back to town? At one point a settler points a very visibly plugged replica gun. So it’s a bit amateurish. But all in all this is no total clunker. It’s perfectly presentable as a Western if you don’t set your standards too high. It’s a million times better than the average spaghetti anyway.
But it doesn’t rock.