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DVD Review: 'Wyatt Earp's Revenge'

Country star Trace Adkins makes the best of what little screen time he gets in this well made DVD western.

Trace Adkins in the new western DVD, 'Wyatt Earp's Revenge.'

Trace Adkins in the new western DVD, 'Wyatt Earp's Revenge.'

Hybrid Productions Inc.

There’s nothing terribly original -- but, on the other hand, nothing jarringly revisionist -- about Wyatt Earp’s Revenge, a handsomely produced and resolutely old-fashioned Western that’s set for a March 6 DVD and Blu-ray release. One of the better made-for-video sagebrush sagas to appear in recent years, it’s a first-rate adventure that’s bound to please anyone a-hankerin’ for a straight-shootin’ western in the classic tradition.

Fans of Tombstone doubtless will enjoy seeing Val Kilmer back in the saddle again -- figuratively if not literally -- for another interpretation of a Wild West legend. The only drawback is, they won’t get to see Kilmer actually taking part in the action: He’s cast as an aged Wyatt Earp who’s interviewed by an inquisitive reporter (David O’Donnell) in 1907 San Francisco, and serves more or less as narrator of a violent tale set in and around Dodge City in 1878.

Most of Revenge focuses on a younger, fiercer Wyatt Earp (effectively played by Canadian-born actor Shawn Roberts), who’s willing to risk his career -- and maybe even violate his personal code of justice -- after psycho outlaw Spike Kenedy (a genuinely scary Daniel Booko) inadvertently kills the lawman’s actress sweetheart (Diana DeGarmo). When a Dodge City judge refuses to issue an arrest warrant for the outlaw -- whose powerful father, Mifflin Kenedy (country music superstar Trace Adkins), has friends in high places -- Earp turns in his badge and sets out for … for… well, take another look at the movie’s title.

The good news is, our hero doesn’t have to ride lonesome: He’s accompanied on his quest by good buddy Bat Masterson (Matt Dallas of TV’s Kyle XY), deputy Charlie Bassett (Scott Whyte) and tracker Bill Tilghman (Levi Fiehler). The bad news is, the bad guy is very, very bad. Indeed, Spike Kenedy occasionally comes across as a frontier version of Anton Chigurh (the character played by Oscar winner Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men) when he forces unfortunates to quite literally bet their lives.

Kilmer plays the older Earp with impressively understated gravitas and melancholy -- quite a contrast to the manic flamboyance of his Doc Holliday in Tombstone -- leaving viewers to wish he had even more time on camera. Still, at least he’s on view longer than Trace Adkins, who gets very little to do despite receiving second billing in the credits. There’s a teasingly fleeting glimpse of the country star early on, but his character doesn’t really figure into the drama until the 70-minute mark. To his credit, though, Adkins makes his presence felt. And, yes, he looks thoroughly convincing on a horse.

Working from a script by Darren B. Shepherd, director Michael Feifer keeps Revenge moving at an appropriately brisk pace, with just enough sporadic gunplay to keep things interesting. The actors are admirably successful at conveying sincerity and maintaining straight faces while delivering some melodramatic dialogue (“If you’re determined to ride into the gates of Hades itself, I’m gonna ride by your side!”) and the relationship that gradually develops between Kilmer’s Earp and O’Donnell’s curious journalist has a satisfying payoff.

Better still, the filmmakers take time for a darkly comical interlude with a young Doc Holliday, played here by Wilson Bethel (of TV’s Hart of Dixie) as a small-town dentist pressed into service as a surgeon when Earp needs info from a wounded prisoner. It should be noted that, while patching up his “patient,” Doc proves rather adept at the Wild West version of enhanced interrogation techniques.    

 

(Wyatt Earp’s Revenge is rated PG-13 for mild violence. Nothing too graphic, you understand, but there is a bit a blood here and there.)

MORE TRACE ADKINS: Read the Cowboys & Indians April cover story on Trace here.

 

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