In the same vein as my Come Hell or High Water review a couple of weeks ago, The Showdown is a new western done by independent film company North American Motion Pictures Entertainment (NAMP). Instead of a Reconstruction-era revenge story, this time it’s about US Marshall Luke Canfield keeping the peace in the town of Sand Prairie, Texas. Though I can’t say that Come Hell or High Water was my favorite western, The Showdown has renewed my hope for NAMP films.
The first thing that struck me when I watched was the music. Immediately it got me in the mood for a western. And I honestly can’t say whether it was the simple guitar melody, the twang of the west, or the sound of Ron Stuber and the Sand Prairie Tumbleweed Band, but it worked. And it was consistently entertaining as part of the film, not just as an afterthought.
The second thing I noticed was that the tone of the movie. Where Come Hell or High Water was darkened with the taint of revenge, The Showdown had a much lighter approach. There were actual humorous characters scattered into the landscape of the town instead of a few depressing characters weighed down by the blood debts of the Civil War. In one scene, I believe I even heard Marshall Canfield whistling to the tune of the soundtrack, which made me smile.
So immediately The Showdown had my attention. It hit two of my main buttons for movies – humor and music. Not to say that the movie is a comedy, but the Jim Conover (who both wrote, directed, and helped produce the film) knew enough to balance the serious with the lighthearted.
Marshall Canfield (Bob Handegan) spent years looking for his ex-wife who took his young son and left him in Tennessee. Eventually he tracked them to Texas, but was never able to find them. Instead, he settled into acting as the law in Sand Prairie.
Like most towns in westerns, Sand Prairie has a saloon where you can find carousing cowboys and dancing girls. Among them is Dixie Johnson (Ann Hagemann), a beautiful self-assured blond. She holds her own until Asa Brown (William Homel) assaults her one night and Canfield saves her. After that, a battle begins between Canfield and Brown that includes abduction, destruction, and near death for Canfield and others.
This movie has a little of everything you’d expect in a good western… Horse rustlers, saloons, show girls, kidnapping, bar fights, gun battles, and even a town drunk. To top that off, I thought the acting and story were much better than Come Hell or High Water. There are a few exceptions, such as the death of Deputy Tom at the hands of Brown and his gang. But for the most part, the acting was solid.
Like in Come Hell or High Water, the horses and horsework by the actors and stuntmen in the movie was top notch. Even the gun battles were well staged. Both the good guys and the bad guys missed their marks about evenly.
And another thing I appreciated was how the picture was shot. Presented in a beautiful widescreen 16×9 format, you get to see all the beautiful greens, golds, and browns of nature in its many outdoor locations. And one portion of the film in the third act used a split-screen approach, sometimes presenting as many as three different views of the action at the same time. It reminded me of Ang Lee‘s work in Hulk back in 2003, though not in as much of a comic-book style.
The only exception in shooting quality for me was the last shot of the film from above. For some reason the camera was very shaky as they drew back to take in the scene as the posse finally arrived at the site of the final battle. But the rest of the movie was very well done.
The DVD also included a number of previews for other NAMP productions such as Redemption and Come Hell or High Water. The final DVD is also slated to include a behind-the-scenes feature, commentary from the director, and a collection of stills.
If you’re a fan of westerns, be sure to give The Showdown a look when it’s released on DVD April 21, 2009. For an independent feature, it kept me entertained from beginning to end and restored my faith in the western movie genre! I give it a solid 3 out of 4!
p.s. Pick this up at your local video store or from Amazon.