In the movie loft

In the movie loft

I watched Texas Rangers (2001) on DVD last night. It stars Dylan McDermott and James Van Der Beek, and it purpotedly tells the story of Leander McNelly, the man who made the famed Texas Rangers the force for justice in Texas that it is today. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t all that good. Oh sure, there was plenty of horseback gunfighting and all that action, but it wasn’t all that well-written or directed. It jumped around a bit and opened plot points that were never dealt with properly. We’re introduced to the daughter of a prominent rancher, the putative love interest, yet nothing ever happens with her. To make it worse, she is in unaccountable good spirits at the end despite the tragedy that has befallen her. And what about the Mexican general that the chief bandito (played by Alfred Molina, who always makes a good villain) urges to invade Texas? We never hear from him again and we’re left wondering why the director Steve Miner bothered leaving that in.

As for being based on a true story, about the only connection to history is the use of the names of real people and places and that they were connected to the history of the Texas Rangers. It’s not as if the real story of Leander McNelly and the Texas Rangers would not have made a good movie. In fact, it would have been a much superior movie. McNelly was a man made frail and sickly his life by tuberculosis, who couldn’t speak much above a whisper, but was a brilliant military leader in both the Civil War and as the leader of the Texas Rangers’ Special Forces that patrolled the Nueces Strip. He was an honorable man, one of the few who served in the corrupt State Police that preceded the rebirth of the Rangers in the 1870s. I wish someone would make that movie. Until then, Texas Rangers stands as a mildly diverting piece of Western fluff, an unremarkable addition to the genre that is neither the worst nor among the best. If you see it on the shelves of Blockbuster or in the Netflix listings, it might make an interesting diversion.

At the other end of the movie spectrum, I saw Casablanca for the first time on Friday night. Yes, I know, how could I have missed seeing this movie all these years? For one thing, it’s never on TV, and for another everyone else has seen it dozens of times so they never want to watch it again. But finally, Melanie took pity on my cinematic ignorance and brought her copy over. I understand why it is considered one of the best movies of all time. Bogart was great, as were Claude Rains and Sydney Greenstreet. The writing was excellent for the times (when movies were being mass-produced by the studio system), and I was amazed at the impact this movie has had on our culture.

In fact, so much of it was so familiar that I felt like I’d already seen it. From the “hill of beans” speech to Rains’ “shocked, shocked!” comment to Bogies’ “We’ll always have Paris” and “Here’s looking at you, kid” lines, it has to be among the most quoted, most referenced films of all time. Just look at IMDB’s movie connections page for Casablanca to see all the films that have referenced it over the years. Amazing.

Phew, cross one “must see” movie of my list. Now I have to see what all the fuss is about the Godfather movies. Are those any good?

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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