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Featured DVD Review: Miramax: High-Powered Action!

April 9th, 2012

Miramax: High-Powered Action! - Dead Man, Equilibrium, Renaissance, and Texas Rangers - Buy from Amazon

Last year, Dead Man and Texas Rangers were released on a Blu-ray Double-Shot while last week Equilibrium and Renaissance were also released on a Blu-ray Double-Shot. This week, all four films are coming out on a two-disc DVD. So are these four films worth picking up? Or are there too many misses and not enough hits?

Dead Man

The film begins with William Blake riding by train to a wild west town, where he has a job as an accountant waiting for him. It's a long journey all the way to Machine, the town he's headed to, and the further he goes, the fewer signs of civilization he sees out the window of the train. (For that matter, his fellow passengers become a lot more "frontiersy". Pelts become the prominent fashion choice.) Before he even arrives at his destination, he's warned by the train fireman not to trust John Dickinson and he's just as likely to find his grave in Machine as he is to find a job.

Turns out this unnamed man is right. When William Blake gets to Machine and heads to Dickinson Metal Works, he is informed by John Scholfield that the position was filled a month ago. He is then informed by John Dickinson that if he doesn't leave his office, he will be shot. This is especially distressing, as he spent almost all of his money on the train ticket out to Machine. He has just enough to buy a small bottle of whiskey to consul himself, but before he can get too drunk, he sees Thel Russell (Mili Avital), a prostitute turned flower girl, accosted by a man. He helps her up and escorts her home, so she won't get into any more trouble, and maybe they will find a little romance.

Unfortunately, trouble is just what they get when Thel's ex-boyfriend, Charlie, shows up. Seeing William and Thel in bed together, Charlie tries to shoot William, but Thel throws herself in front of the bullet. William manages to grab Thel's gun and shoots Charlie dead. The bad news continues, as not only is Thel dead, but the bullet passed through her and struck William in the chest. Worried what the repercussions will be, he steals a horse and rides off. Two things happen as a result. Firstly, William wakes up the next morning to find a Native American, Nobody, trying to cut the bullet out of his chest. It's too deep to get out, and he's going to die. However, after learning William Blake's name and assuming he's the reincarnation of the famous poet, Nobody agrees to help him get to the Pacific Ocean, so he can go on a spiritual journey.

Secondly, we learn that Charlie was Charlie Dickinson, John Dickinson's son. He's hired three bounty hunters / hitmen / psychos, Cole Wilson, Conway Twill, and Johnny "The Kid" Pickett, to bring back William Blake, dead or alive.

At this point we should stop the plot summary, because we start to enter spoiler territory and this is a movie you want to experience first hand. Admittedly, Dead Man is a slow, slow movie with many scenes where little happens. In fact, until we meet Conway, the talkative bounty hunter, there are many scenes where almost nothing is said. Its pacing will drive a lot of people away from the film, but it is also almost hypnotic in a sense. I was certainly captivated the first time I saw the movie and I was drawn in this time as well. There are a world of strange characters in this movie and while the level of quirk is high, even for an art house film, it still manages to feel organic and not forced. The great black and white cinematography and the score also adds a lot to the overall effectiveness of the film.

Granted, it might be a case of a little more style than substance, but the style is more than enough for me.

Texas Rangers

The film begins with a Narrator explaining how the during the Civil War, the Texas Rangers, the only police force in the state of Texas, were disbanded to fight for the Confederacy. In their absence, Texas fell into chaos and bandits took over. Now ten years later, the governor of Texas wants to recommission the Rangers.

Leander McNelly was the old leader, but he's not really interested in leading again, especially since he has tuberculosis. He's talked into it, reluctantly. Of course, if he is to lead the next generation of Texas Rangers, he will need recruits. He gets a willing recruit after Lincoln Rogers Dunnison sees his family shot down by King Fisher and his gang. His plan is to walk all the way to Brownsville to where the Rangers are recruiting. He doesn't get too far before he stumbles upon another village massacred. There's one survivor here as well, George Durham. George Durham also wants to join the Rangers to get revenge, and he has a horse. They quickly get to Brownsville and meet up with the other recruits, like Randolph Douglas Scipio, who is made a scout, much to his dismay.

Veterans like Leander McNelly and Sergeant John Armstrong will have to turn these recruits into real Texas Rangers, and they won't have long. Meanwhile, Lincoln Rogers Dunnison has a difficult journey of his own becoming disillusioned with the reality of the Rangers, where they are not exactly concerned with due process.

This movie has a really, really bad script. It's one cliché after another with little regard how to string them together in a coherent fashion. The characters range from one-dimensional to underdeveloped and from uninteresting to boring. Some of the actors do a good job elevating their performances beyond what is written on the page, but others are so out of place it is jarring. For instance, I didn't believe for a second that George Durham was from the 1800s. He was a modern person pretending to be a cowboy. There are a few good action scenes, but the rest of the movie is simply not worth watching to get to those scenes.

This is easily the weakest of the four films on this DVD

The Extras

There are no extras for any of the movies.

The Verdict

Of the four films on the Miramax: High-Powered Action!, Dead Man is the best and is easily worth picking up. Renaissance has enough style to cover-up some of the flaws and it too is worth owning. Equilibrium has an interesting idea, but deeply flawed execution. While Texas Rangers is a miss from top to bottom. Is the whole thing worth owning? That depends on how much you are willing to spend on two and a half films being released on featureless DVDs.

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Filed under: Video Review, Equilibrium, Dead Man, Texas Rangers, Renaissance