Review: The Warrant

Directed by Brent Christy and written by Shea Sizemore, after fighting in the Civil War, two Union Army buddies find themselves on opposite sides of the law with the post-war peace at risk. Starring: Neal McDonough, Steven R. McQueen, Casper Van Dien, Annabeth Gish, Gregory Cruz, Greg Perrow, Roxanna Dunlop, Esteban Cueto, Trace Cheramie, Gregory Alan Williams, Daniel Norris, Isaiah Stratton and Christie McNab.

John Breaker (McDonough) may have fought side by side with The Saint (Van Dien) during the war but years later he’s set the task of tracking him down and serving his arrest warrant, leaving him to reflect upon the events that set them down such different paths. A modern western is a difficult thing to achieve and very few have done it successfully as it’s a genre that hit its peak many decades ago with the likes of John Wayne, Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood, so they set themselves some big shoes to fill. The story itself hits all the classic notes, revenge, betrayal, loss, carnage and redemption with a dash of romance; it may be predictable but it gives you exactly what you’d expect from a film such as this. It’s full of old-fashioned bravado, the dialogue has that classic drawl with a mix of sentiment and masculinity but it is pretty much boilerplate, there’s nothing to be found in the writing that colours outside of the lines. Perhaps the only surprising thing about the writing is that they do give the story a great pace, there aren’t long sequences where nothing happens, the action is well spread to keep a forward energy going throughout. Although the filmmakers’ perception that it’s necessary to add title cards to clearly separate each part of the timeline is a disappointing assumption of its audience, the changes in costume clearly dictate the story so it was really only necessary to introduce each element once rather than multiple transitions.

The performances similarly are exactly what you’re looking for with this type of film, thankfully there are no ridiculously over the top accents or personalities, everyone plays it to the right tone; the only exception being that occasionally Van Dien leans a little heavily on the growl to his voice. McDonough manages to navigate the waters between villain and hero well, using the confidence of former and the generosity of the latter to create John, he’s slightly cliched but he has a good charisma and wholesome yet forbidding presence. He’s paired well with McQueen (grandson to icon Steve McQueen) who plays his son Cal, the two have a nice fatherly bond and a little bit of banter that’s enjoyable to watch, it’s sweet and simple. Cruz as John’s right hand man Bugle is a stoic, loyal and wise figure, it’s a shame that he doesn’t get to say too much but what he does is well delivered and holds a nice depth or feeling to it in comparison with the lightweight dialogue in general.

With most of the film being as expected, the direction actually hits below average, it unfortunately has a number of ill-chosen shots and has an overall commercial quality that’s not ideal. The visual quality upon opening feels cheap and empty, it doesn’t fit with its historical setting and lacks any real presence or atmosphere. This isn’t helped by the score, which is overly sentimental and unoriginal, as well as being much too quiet, it could have helped to ramp up the action by an injection of energy through the music but that doesn’t happen. It’s further dampened by the lacking work in the sound department, effects are mistimed or just not well represented at all, it prevents more of an investment when you’re being thrown out of the story by these missteps. There’s also issues with costume and make-up feeling too modern, there are touches to the costumes that feel out of place for the era and Dunlop’s character feels as though she’s wearing a lot of make-up considering its set in the 1800’s, it needed to be much more subtle to get away with it. Lastly, the efforts in direction being less than desirable can be summed up perfectly in the film’s ending, with no spoilers whatsoever, what can be said is the visual quality compares with that of a Republican candidate’s ad while running for office, it’s utterly commercial, unoriginal and a disappointing note to end the film on.

The Warrant will create a different viewing experience depending on what you’re looking to get out of it, if you want some easy entertainment then you’re set but if you’re looking for something more than that, then you’ll be disappointed. Its direction lacks any originality and the writing doesn’t have a real feeling or atmosphere to it, it sticks to what we’ve seen before but it does still manage to set a great pace and hit all the notes that you need from it. It’s a classic tale of past mistakes and revenge, it’s entertaining despite its flaws and if all you’re expecting to get out of it is 85-minutes of an old-fashioned style of simple entertainment then you should give it a shot.

Verdict: ✯✯

Available now in the US on DVD and VOD

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