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Monte Walsh  

Review: written 2007

Moving tribute to the real cowboys

This is not a shoot-em-up Western. If that is what you are after, stop reading right here. What this is, however, is a real heartfelt tribute to the cowboy. The genuine article cowboy. In particular, it charts a group through the decline of the golden age of the cowboy, near the end of the 19th Century. Almost the whole of the first half of the movie, there is no plot to speak of, just character exposition building up the picture of the life and character that these men had. Nothing is rushed, and yet it is never dull, thanks to an intelligent script. There are humorous moments and great lines, but plenty of pathos and melancholy too, as the characters all deal with the end of an era in their own ways. We see the cowboy-turned-outlaw, the cowboy-turned-storekeeper, the cowboy-turned-floor sweeper... but most of all we see the cowboy turned into legend. As the plot kicks in, there is nothing contrived about it, but it all feeds into the central idea of examining what men do when their purpose is taken away from them.

The movie benefits from some great performances from some classic character actors such as William Devane and Barry Corbin, as well as a brilliant star turn from Tom Selleck who has never been better. It also benefits from the stunning scenery - ironically not in Wyoming as the movie suggests, but shot in Canada. The sweeping vistas, free of any trace of civilization, set against a backdrop of the Rockies, are stunning and superbly photographed.

What pulls this above its TV-movie-of-the-week origins is the sincerity poured into it by all concerned, and not least by the prolific director Simon Wincer (Lonesome Dove, Quigley Down Under... and Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles! ) and executive producer Tom Selleck. This sincerity fills the movie with those little, almost subliminal moments which make it feel real.

The result is no classic big screen film, but a perfectly judged and understated homage to a bygone era. It leaves us with the notion, that though the golden age is over, there will always be real cowboys.

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