Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem a tad presumptuous for the makers of this Western to already be referring to it as legendary? I expect they think that because Robert Duvall is playing his third variation on Larry McMurtry’s Augustus McCrae, or because it’s four hours long, or maybe because TV Guide called it an “instant classic,” whatever that is, they’ve somehow hurdled history. The unfortunate truth is, while the picture has some virtues, when compared to Lonesome Dove, for example, it falls a bit shy of “legendary.”
Made for the AMC cable channel, Broken Trail is yet another tale of a couple of grizzled cowpokes, Print (Duvall) and Tom (Thomas Haden Church), out on the lone prairie, herding horses for the mount-hungry British army. A weaselly no-account (James Russo) comes along one evening and slips our lads a mickey. When they wake up the next morning, they find they’ve lost their herd but gained a wagon full of whimpering terrified Chinese girls who speak no English. Fortunately, the creepy moron has left behind enough horse flesh for Tom to saddle up, track and hang him, and retrieve the herd, but the girls are now a fixed part of the drive. Also added to their new family are a panhandling upper class fiddler, Heck Gilpin (Scott Cooper), who thankfully speaks Indian, a whimpering terrified hooker, Nola (Greta Scacchi), and a Chinese translator. Without spoiling the picture, it’s safe to say there are a few tough moments, but things work out okay.
The two-disc DVD is fine, if a little light in the extras department. The only bonus is the documentary that aired on AMC, Broken Trail: The Making of a Legendary Western. Next time, it’d be smart to diminish expectations by modestly calling it “The Making of a Decent Western.”