(director: Craig R. Baxley; screenwriters: Ronald M. Cohen/Dennis Shryack; cinematographer: Yaron Levy; editor: Christine Kelley; music: Gary Chang; cast: Casper Van Dien (Luke Rivers), Bruce Boxleitner (D.C. Cracker), Ernest Borgnine (Prescott), Jeff Kober (Tate), Jack Noseworthy (Riley), Jake Thomas (Noah), William Atherton (Howard), Deirdre Quinn (Jo Tanner), Rodney Scott (Monty); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Wilberger; Grand Army Entertainment,; 2008)

There’s nothing about this unimaginative Western to be excited about.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It’s a cheerless made-for-television western, trying to be a Spaghetti Western. The title refers to a dead man’s hand in cards. The hand Wild Bill Hickock had when he was shot in the back at a card game. Craig R. Baxley(“Sudden Fury”/”The Glow”/”Deep Red”) directs it flatly and fills it with clichés, relying on the action to do the talking. The script by Ronald M. Cohen and Dennis Shryack is pedestrian.

On the rural Texas frontier, the Chicago-based railroad is putting in a railroad line and wants you to believe it’s bringing the area progress. Problems arise when a number of ranchers refuse to sell their land to the railroad. In charge of bargaining with the ranchers is the sinister Mr. Howard (William Atherton). He hires the ruthless gunslinger Tate (Jeff Kober) to force the ranchers to sell cheaply or move off their land or get killed. One of Tate’s brooding gunslingers, Luke Rivers (Casper Van Dien), quits for a more sedate life as a ranch worker for Prescott (Ernest Borgnine). He’s the crusty elderly rancher who refuses to sell. Three years after leaving Tate, Luke decides to help Prescott fight the evil railroad. Bruce Boxleitner is one of Tate’s men who decides to fight with Luke. Jack Noseworthy is the sincere railroad man sent by the Chicago office to be in charge of the negotiations and to do it peacefully. Deirdre Quinn is the attractive school teacher in love with Luke.

There’s nothing about this unimaginative Western to be excited about.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”