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Featured DVD Review: The Way of the West

July 17th, 2011

The Way of the West - Buy from Amazon

This Canadian film was released up north at the beginning of the month under the name, The Mountie, but in the States it is coming out direct-to-DVD under the name The Way of the West. There has been a surprising number of low-budget westerns that have come out recently, so if you are a fan of the genre, there are plenty of films to choose from. Will this entry be worth checking out? Or will it fade into the crowd?

The Movie

Andrew W. Walker stars as Corporal Wade Grayling, the titular Mountie, who arrives at a tiny encampment in the Yukon looking for a place for the North-West Mounted Police to build a garrison. He's been sent on this surveying mission after accidentally killing a child while trying to apprehend some criminals and it should have been a rather mundane job. However, the locals are less than welcoming; the leader of this tiny encampment, a priest named Olaf (Earl Pastko), doesn't even want him helping with their sick. (Grayling suspects arsenic poisoning, which would be the result of a gold mine upriver.) The adults just want him gone and at first the only one that welcomes him is Cleora (Kestrel Martin), Olaf's younger daughter who helps him with his task and whom he teaches how to shoot. But when he saves Olaf's older daughter, Amethyst, by standing up to some Russia mountain men who are in the Yukon looking for gold, he at least earns a bit of respect.

These mountain men, Kleus (George Buza) and the others, are whiskey traders and as Kleus explains, Nikolai (Matthew G. Taylor) didn't mean any harm and had just gotten a little over-excited from being near a woman after so long. But it's clear given the company they keep (their guide is William Cobb (Tony Munch) who is wanted for bank robbery and murder in the states) that they are not just simple traders. But it slowly becomes clear that everyone in this movie has a darker past, including Wade Grayling. As he discovers one secret, and tries to add some law and order to the wilderness, he could be putting the very people he's trying to save in danger.

As I previous mentioned, a lot of low budget westerns have come out direct-to-DVD recently and it's hard for any of them to really stand out at this point. Having this film set in the Canadian north with a Mountie as the lead character does help. The film looks great and the lush green locations are used to their fullest. On the other hand, that's the most unique part of the film and the rest is rather standard fare for the genre. Andrew W. Walker plays Wade Grayling in full stoic mode, which fits with the image the Mounties have, but doesn't allow for much in the way of character depth. (We do learn in flashbacks that he has overcome troubles in the past, but it's not the same as watching a character arc as it happens.) The basic plot is also quite a standard plot for a western movie about a lawman. You see him arrive in town, confront the lawlessness, and eventually there's a big confrontation where only one side will be left standing. (There's even a subplot involving a retired Mountie in need of redemption.) We've seen this play out a number of times. The execution isn't bad, but isn't without flaws. The dialogue is a little weak and the low budget hurts the staging of the action scenes, but these problems are not fatal for the film.

The Extras

Extras include four deleted scenes, two alternative openings, and interviews with the five main cast members. The total running time is roughly 25 minutes, which is better than a lot of direct-to-DVD releases have.

The Verdict

I've reviewed a number of similar films over the past few months. The Gunslingers, A Cold Day in Hell, a couple Doc West films, etc. The Way of the West is better than most of these films, but still suffers as the result of its budget. The extras are better than expected and the DVD is worth a rental for fans of the genre.

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