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The Jack Bull  

Review: written 2006

TV movie in Unforgiven mould

What fantastic value DVD this is. Hard to believe this was a TV movie - kudos to HBO, once again.

This is an un-romanticised view of the West - telling it like it was. A man of integrity might get justice in one way, but it will cost him dearly in another. From photography in washed out colours, to the slow burn build of events that means guns don't actually get used until late in the movie, this is set out to be both realistic and unflinching. This asks the question - Just what is the value of going vigilante? What is the real cost? Is getting the justice you ask for worth any price? And the wonderful (and certainly non -Hollywood) thing is, you are left to make up your own mind, there are no easy answers.

John Cusack is just terrific here - you might find it a stretch to see him in a Western, but he is utterly credible in a tough role. Miranda Otto as his wife is perfect casting, and in fact the whole supporting cast is spot on - except maybe some of the chief decision makers of the territory who are somewhat two dimensional. Enjoy John C. McGinley (Perry from `Scrubs') in a minor role, and John Goodman in a pivotal role - albeit only in the last third of the movie.

Music by Lennie Niehaus is similar but less minimalist than his score to Unforgiven, and adds in a wonderful way to the poignancy of the movie, along with some spectacular landscapes which crop up from time to time. I'm sure Dick Cusack (John's dad) would be proud of the end result of his script, produced by his son.

Don't be put off by the fact this is a TV movie - it certainly rises way beyond its genesis to be something of a classic, born from the mould of `Unforgiven'.

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