I’ll begin this review by letting you, dear reader, know that this film has been released under a few different names besides the name that 101 Films (here in the UK) have released it as, The Ranger. It also goes by the titles “Way of the West”, “The Mountie” and “Lawman”, so you may have seen this film on shelves in your region, depending on what it’s being called there.
Wyeth Clarkson (Sk8 Life) writes and directs this Canadian “western” in which a Mountie comes to a town to clean things up after an innocent man if found dead. The premise is western-101 (pardon the release-specific-pun) and a concept that has worked in the genre since its heyday.
Andrew W. Walker (The Gundown) plays our lead, Wade Grayling, and he channels Clint Eastwood, if Clint had retired to the Great White North as a young man. He comes across a little girl called Cleora who is trying to shoot a noose to get a man down from a tree where he is hanging. Grayling, The Mountie of the tale, gets the man down, and our journey begins. Meeting a religious man, named Kleus, the father of Cleora and another girl names Amethyst, Grayling decides to stay in the town to find out what’s going on. Discovering a dog fighting ring, and an invading Russian gang of hoodlums, things heat up as our law-man attempts to sort out the problems of the town. A story based on the years in which Western Canada’s British Columbian province had an influx of Russian immigrants, this is a slow burning story about redemption and enforcement of law.
There has been a very mixed reaction to this, and I can see why many people were disappointed with the film, though I did find some things to enjoy about it, and thought it was unfairly dismissed as a bad film, when in actual fact it is a slow film that, if you don’t expect a particular thing, works fairly well. The cinematography is lovely, and with the beautiful Canadian landscape, the backgrounds in many of the shots in the film are stunning. The performances from many of the actors were okay. Walker, as Grayling, was fine, but felt at times like he was trying to be a version of someone else’s characterisation, instead of making the role his own. George Buza (Diary of the Dead) as Kleus, was the standout for me, his religious villain, though a little corny at times, worked well and his delivery was good. Kestrel Martin, as the little girl, Cleora, made her film debut here, and due to that fact she deserves a lot of credit for delivering such a fine performance. Still, there is some poor moments too, some of the dialogue is delivered in such a wooden manner, and some of the villainous characters feel so stereotypical that they just don’t work, or provide any tension to the story.
The dialogue was hit and miss, and there were some truly corny moments that made the film feel a bit too silly, when it should have felt rustic, real and gritty. It was slow too, and while I am fine with slow burning films that use a lot of their time developing the characters, there needs to be a big bang of a conclusion to make it all worth it, and I felt like that was missing somewhat here. Not enough happened in the beginning, the middle or the end, and while I didn’t dislike the film, and I enjoyed the setting and a couple of the actors, I wouldn’t say it was a particularly successful project either. Clichéd, sure, but not unworthy of your time, it depends on whether any of what I have mentioned as positives appeal to you, as to whether or not you should watch this, but the presentation from 101 Films is crisp and sounds and looks good.
The Ranger is available on DVD, from 101 Films, now.