Texas Rangers (2001)

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Sell-Through Release Status Unknown
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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Western Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 86:45
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Steve Miner
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring James Van Der Beek
Dylan McDermott
Usher Raymond
Ashton Kutcher
Rachael Leigh Cook
Alfred Molina
Tom Skerritt
Robert Patrick
Randy Travis
Leonor Varela
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Trevor Rabin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Ah...the Western. A grand Hollywood tradition. Or rather, a once-grand Hollywood tradition. It seems that the upper echelons of the Hollywood studios have a certain love of Westerns, as every few years a new Western or two will be put out (this time, Texas Rangers vied for attention with American Outlaws - the former crashed spectacularly, while the latter was only a reasonable success) - and every few years the public will stay away in droves. The reason for this is almost impossible to pin down, as many period pieces are successful, while sweeping epics are very much in vogue - both areas in which Westerns excel. It has been theorised that the problem with the Western may be down to a small thing called sci-fi, and that for today's audience, the idea of phaser battles in outer-space is more realistic and plausible than gun-slingers duelling it out for honour and freedom in the Wild West. More likely however, is that the Western is simply not "cool" - it was the type of movie that the parents (or even grand-parents) of today's major cinema-going audiences watched, and to watch one for yourself would be to admit that they might have been onto a good idea.

    Texas Rangers attempts to address this image problem head-on with a cast likely to have any teen drooling - lead by Dawson himself James Van Der Beek (who chose this as his second movie project following the massively successful Varsity Blues, and as a consequence disappeared from the silver screen for almost three years), and backed up by the likes of Ashton Kutcher, Usher Raymond, and Rachel Leigh Cook (although her role is so small as to be almost blink-and-you'll-miss-it material). The young'uns are complemented by the likes of Dylan McDermott (in a very different role to Bobby Donnell of The Practice) and Robert Patrick (I'm sure he only says about three sentences in the entire movie - but he does stand around a lot). None of it - unfortunately - worked, and not for any real problem with the movie. The theatrical performance of this film is a clear example of how marketing can make or break a film.

    The plot of this film - and surprisingly for a Steve Miner film (he who brought upon us all the cinematic blight that was Halloween: H20), there is actually a semblance of a plot - starts in 1875. The Texas Rangers - a group focusing on law-enforcement and public safety (as in, protecting settlers from attacks by natives) - had been in existence for just over 50 years, but had only just been re-assembled after a four year disbandment following the confederate loss in the US Civil War (in which the Rangers were a feared force for the south). These "new" rangers had something to prove, and any number of "Indian" and Mexican raiders to test their mettle. Our story follows one band of Rangers, lead by former preacher Leander McNelly (Dylan McDermott), as they encounter a particularly vicious band of raiders working out of a fort just the other side of the Mexican border. The raiders are making a name for themselves by stealing thousands of head of cattle, and - more infamously - killing everyone within sight of said cattle just for the fun of it. Losing his parents to these raiders, Lincoln Rogers Dunnison (James Van Der Beek) joins the rangers, along with fellow raider victim George Durham (Ashton Kutcher). After one particularly brutal encounter with the raiders, McNelly takes what is left of his rangers to the ranch of his old friend Richard Dukes (Tom Skerritt) where the leading men encounter the lovely Caroline Dukes (Rachel Leigh Cook). From here it is up to the rangers, and Lincoln and George in particular, to stop the threat of the raiders before more lives are lost. This is the first problem with Texas Rangers - the plot moves at breakneck speed, and never really settles into a groove long enough to let the audience become comfortable. This really smells of studio interference.

    The strongest aspect of Texas Rangers is its characters - they are mostly well rounded, and have believable motives for the actions they carry out. It is good to see a script with such effort put into the characters, because it lends a more human element to what could have been a very boring and flat action movie. And therein lies the other problem with Texas Rangers - as an action movie it doesn't really cut it. The gun battles are appropriately chaotic, and the bloodthirsty nature of the men in charge is well drawn, but the action is simply boring. This creates a problem, because while the characters are interesting, they are not enough to carry the film on their own. It really is a pity because this film could actually have been something very spectacular - instead it is simply interesting (not that it's a bad thing, but it's a shame to see so much potential go begging).

    Obviously, the studio responsible for this film, Dimension, could not quite get around the problems with it, as it was stuck in the much-feared "development hell", suffering numerous re-writes, re-shoots, and re-edits before finally slipping quietly into cinemas a few months after American Outlaws despite lensing around a year before it (Rangers was actually shot in 1999). The decision to release this film with almost no marketing at all seems rather strange, as given the top-notch teen cast (sure, they're all TV stars, but at least you've heard of most of them), the very good characterisations, and the fact that the movie is not actually all that bad, a little marketing could have seen this go a lot further. However, that is the beauty of DVD - this film is now available for all and sundry to see. It is very well suited to the rental market it is entering, as it will give many more an opportunity to discover it (especially the teen audience when they see the cast list). Very heartily recommended as a rental to any looking for a decent adventure film that has - for once - real characters. Just don't get hung up on the fact that it's a Western. One other thing that is interesting about this film is the billing of Rachel Leigh Cook as a lead - she does not appear until the 49th minute (at which point there is only 37 minutes remaining - including a rather long 8 minutes for credits) and has all of about two minutes screen time over five or six scenes. Hardly a starring role in my book.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this film is good but it could easily have been so much better (which is somewhat fitting, really).

    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness is very good, and while there are a few instances where the image could be classified as soft (such as at 56:25), these are generally few and far between. There is almost nothing in the way of visible grain, with the most offending scene (from 52:25 to 52:31) being quite mild. One other amusing problem is the reflection of the image in the lens at 57:59 - it is quite rare to see this kind of mistake in a film (although considerably more common on TV) - and is a little disconcerting. Shadow detail - for the few darkly lit scenes there are - is very good, and there is never any doubt as to what is occurring on screen. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are extremely good. The green rolling grasslands give way to the harsh sand of the desert with barely a pause, while the highlights of costumes or sets are all well rendered.

    There are no compression artefacts in this transfer at all, and the short running time of the film means that it suffers no ill effects by being presented on a single-layered disc. The biggest problem with the transfer, and the sole reason that it gets a lower mark than might otherwise have been given, is aliasing. The transfer is rife with it, particularly early on, and it can be very distracting. The culprits in the vast majority of circumstances are hats. One look at the cover will show you that every man in this film has a very large-brimmed hat (I cannot remember the name of the style, but it is quintessentially Texan), and they pretty much stay glued to their heads throughout the film. This is a bad thing, because virtually any time that a hat is on screen, at least some part of the brim will be showing the effects of aliasing. The hats aside (and that is a rather big aside), there are numerous other instances of aliasing, such as on the windmill at 60:43 or the gun (actually, guns are almost as bad as hats for this transfer) at 26:25, but the worst instance is on the fences from 9:05 to 9:08 where the entire screen shimmers. Film artefacts are present, but they are few and far between, and never distracting (or at least, they never distract from the aliasing).

    The subtitles are very accurate, dropping only very occasional words, and in the Roadshow style they are placed under the character actually speaking the dialogue where possible. They are well paced and easy to read.

    This is a single layered disc, and as such does not have a layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a good audio transfer, although it is far from being spectacular, let down by a lack of true surround use, and a general sound level that seems too high.

    There is only the single audio track on this DVD, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times - there is never any need to strain to hear or understand what is being said. The only real issue is with the dynamic range of the track, as the action scenes seem to be a little on the loud side compared to the dialogue. Audio sync is spot on throughout and never causes any problems.

    The score is credited to Trevor Rabin, and it is for the most part very good. It is a typical Western score - big, bold, and sweeping - but on occasion, the "big" sound of the score does not fit the smaller, more human nature of the movie. Additionally, there are a few scenes where the tone of the score and the tone of the scene do not fit together very well, but these are generally infrequent.

    The surround channels are heavily used, but in general only for ambient noise, or to back up the score. In a movie where there are many gun-fights, and a number of them being full on battles, it would have been nice to have distinct gun-fire noises and the like coming from the surrounds, while instead we only get a muffled reflection of the front soundstage - quite disappointing indeed.

    The subwoofer gets a very good workout, backing up both the score, and a lot of the action. While there are few opportunities for it to really go berserk, what it does present is more than sufficient.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Aside from the trailer, there are no extras at all - although there is probably little to say about this film anyway.

Menu

    The menu is 16x9 enhanced, themed around the movie, and static.

Theatrical Trailer (1:10)

    Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio, this trailer is a good one, not giving too much away, but effectively advertising what the film is about.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     The list of advantages of the Region 1 version is actually quite bland, and provides no compelling reason to select one over the other. I would call this a tie, especially given the very high price of the Region 1 version.

Summary

    Texas Rangers is a film that was supposedly so laughably bad that Dimension sat on it for over two years before release - the interesting thing is that the film actually isn't all that bad. Sure, it's not a masterpiece, but for a good hour and a half's entertainment and a script that actually creates good strong characters, it is more than worthy of a rent.

    The video quality is good, but it could have been excellent if not for the constant aliasing. If only the men would take their hats off!

    The audio quality is very good, delivering a rock-solid soundtrack. Unfortunately like the movie and the video, it could have been much improved with some directional sound effects during the battle scenes.

    The solitary extra - the theatrical trailer - isn't exactly exciting, but this is the sort of film that doesn't really call for extras anyway.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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