Saturday, March 14, 2015

Rhustlers' Rhapsody (1985) Review:

With the enormous financial failure of United Artists' Heaven's Gate (1980), the era of grand epic scale Western films came to an end. Production companies were no longer going to be the victim of shoveling out money to any director unless otherwise stated no matter how talented the film crew was. And rightfully so, the risk was too high. Production companies should only give money to people who really know what they are doing and have a good feeling that the movie they're making will be a critical and financial success. Surprisingly midway through the 1980s, a few western movies were made but only to spoof the genre. In some ways it made fun of the previous films but in other ways paid homage to them because they did have a cultural impact when they were popular. This is one these movies.

Sela Ward, Tom Berenger & Marilu Henner
Written and director by Hugh Wilson (best known for directing Police Academy (1984)), essentially this movie is a giant 4th wall breaker. The story follows the basic formula of how many westerns began in the past, which involved a lone cowboy who goes into town and notices corruption in the authority. There he takes it upon himself to solve the injustice. As a screenplay, it's not exactly a story. The execution is more like a walk through to how various western TV shows and movies were written at the time. This includes all the usual plot points. However, Wilson manages to use the cliches in a way that doesn't make them feel so contrived. But the fact that the movie doesn't have it's own story is it's biggest problem. With that the audience doesn't really get to know the protagonist as a character and instead as more of a callback to previous actors who had roles like the one depicted here. Also, since the playout feels more like run-through than an actual narrative, the film does drag which is odd since it barely has an hour and a half long run time.

The lone cowboy in this movie is named Rex O'Herlihan (Tom Berenger), the "Singing Cowboy". O'Herlihan is a flashy dressing dual handed gunslinger who only shoots his enemies in the hand, has ten of the same 10 gallon hats, eats desert roots and has a dancing horse. For Berenger's role, his acting is fine. Especially for not being an actor with much comedy in his filmography he does okay. The only part that doesn't look right is him singing. Eh, wasn't needed. Consequent to arriving at the corrupt town, Rex meets Peter the town drunk (G.W. Bailey) who ends up wanting to join him in his quest. Bailey even blurts out on screen that he is the comedy relief. That is how self-aware Wilson wrote the tone to his feature. Along with Bailey are a number of other decent cast members. Marilu Henner as a local filly, Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne), Sela Ward as the Colonel's daughter and legendary Andy Griffith as the Colonel. All of which provide funny supporting roles. The best belonging to Griffith because of his experience and how subtle he is with his lines.

G.W. Bailey
As a parody, it doesn't have high hilarity but it is funny at several moments. Besides the various actors chewing up the scenery, there are occasions where the common knowledge to certain tasks seems so obvious and yet the script will trick its audience on that. Also who knew there were so many rules on how a character is determined to be a good guy. Most of the action, which will resort to ridiculous shootouts make no sense but are fun to watch nonetheless. By the way, anyone who owns a dancing horse has skills. That was cool. The look of the film is adequate. For the budget that it had, it didn't appear cheap. Especially for the sets and backdrops. There were enough places to keep the eyes stimulated. José Luis Alcaine's cinematography had spacious scenery to present itself as a western. Alcaine really got some nice shots of the terrain which made this spoof feel as authentic as possible. The music composed by Steve Dorff doesn't offer his listeners a memorable theme but does incorporate other motifs that work well the comedic scenes depicted. An example of this is using men’s choir humming a rather western-like acapella tune. It's a bit underrated and western fans should enjoy it.

It lacks any real compelling story, it drags at times and Tom Berenger actually singing isn't all that convincing. Yet with a self-aware 4th wall breaking script, a number of funny scenes, prudent production quality and a talented cast, the flaws are mostly made up for. For one thing, it'll at least give newer viewers an idea of what westerns were like back in the day.

Points Earned --> 7:10

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