Ric Maddox shoots and scores as co-writer and star of this epic drama.
Editor's Note: Throughout March and April, we’re celebrating Great Westerns of the 21st Century — noteworthy movies and TV series with special appeal to C&I readers that have premiered since 2001. Check the Entertainment tab Monday through Friday to see a different recommendation by C&I senior writer Joe Leydon. And be on the lookout for our upcoming May/June 2020 print edition, which prominently features the legendary star who looms large in two of this century’s very best westerns.
The first time we saw Ric Maddox blazing across the Wild West, the Texas-born actor was riding tall as legendary lawman Pat Garrett in The American West, the 2016 AMC dramatic documentary series co-produced by Robert Redford. Two years later, he got back in the saddle for what he viewed as a dream project: Dead Men, an exceptional three-hour western now available for streaming at Amazon Prime, You Tube, iTunes and other platforms.
Maddox co-wrote and co-produced the engrossing drama with director Royston Innes, and stars to perfection as Jesse Struthers, a young man who’s driven to extremes and propelled on a vengeance trail after his father is killed by the lackeys of land-grabber Cole Roberts (Richard O. Ryan) in the 1860s Arizona Territory.
Left for dead by his unreliable brother Jake (Aaron Marciniak), Jesse is adopted by an Apache tribe — and taught to be a formidable warrior — before he can attempt to reclaim what’s rightfully his with a little help from cunning cardsharp Benjamin Brown (Shawn Parson of TV’s Justified and Queen Sugar), his Apache wife Ila (Marisa Quintanilla), fancy lady Sissy McHale (Sasha Higgins) and, unexpectedly, his errant but repentant sibling.
Originally conceived as a limited-run TV series — and currently available in that format on Amazon Prime — Dead Men represents an attempt by Maddox and Innes to return to the roots of their favorite genre. “I think Roy and I we weren’t looking to reinvent the wheel for westerns,” Maddox told C&I in 2018. “We were just looking to get the wheel out of the mud and get it back on the road, so to speak.
“John Ford, who was a veteran like myself, had the right idea of just getting everyone out of Hollywood, out in the middle of nowhere, out where there are no phones, no nothing, and just getting everyone out into the landscape, getting into the terrain. That was something Roy and I wanted. We wanted to get out into these beautiful places in Arizona where, historically, the actual Apaches did run. It was just such a great experience.”
By the way: Maddox is still wild about westerns: He is the author of Captain Jim Sanders and the Malone Ranch Murders and The Malone Ranch Murders: Malone’s Revenge, the first two in a planned trilogy of western novels. Both are now available on Amazon Kindle. For more info on these and Maddox’s other projects, check out his website.