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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Ranch: Unrated and Uncut
The Ranch: Unrated and Uncut
MGM // R // November 23, 2004
List Price: $25.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted November 21, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

I never really heard of The Ranch until I received the DVD to review, so as it goes with the territory I enter this review free of pre-conceived notions or any sense of expectation or dread. And certainly, a film that deals with the behind-the-scenes goings on at a Nevada brothel certainly carries with it a sense of perverse curiosity. I mean, who isn't interested at what goes on at such an establishment? You could be the most Purityrannical bible-thumper in the world, full of so much fire and brimstone that it would put Jonathan Edwards to shame, and you'd still be interested in what's going on there.

So let's take a look at this movie which, from what I have gathered, was originally produced for television (cable television at that). The setting is the Diamond Ranch, a legal brothel just outside of Reno, NV. The house is run by Mary (Amy Madigan), and is home to a variety of girls, each of them with a subplot just ripe for exploration. Let's start with Shayna (Jennifer Aspen), a sweet-faced blonde who, as the movie begins, is celebrating her last day on the job. She has retired to marry her fiancé Evan, who thinks she has been working as a stewardess. Then we have the New Girl, Velvet (Nicki Micheaux), a former actress who thinks she has escaped from her violent pimp in Los Angeles. Next there is baby-faced Kim (Jessica Collins), whose canine-related exploits are jaw-dropping but whose real sexual persuasion is, in comparison, quite tame. Rickie Lee (Paige Moss) enjoys dressing up like a young schoolgirl and calling her tricks "Daddy", much to the reproachful glares of her colleagues, and is saving up money to get out of the biz. Emily (Bonnie Root) is the hard-talking, no-nonsense girl who has secret dreams of reviving her singing career. And then there's Taylor (Samantha Ferris), the proud and non-crap-taking call girl who gives the best hummer West of the Rockies and strives to provide for her daughter Chelsea everything she never had for herself, often butting heads with Chelsea's father (who obviously disapproves of Taylor's lifestyle, but doesn't really seem to do much about it... at first.)

We have your stock situations going on here, such as Velvet escaping her pimp, who suddenly shows up in a rather violent confrontation. There's the ongoing conflict with Shayna and the possibility that Evan may suddenly discover her true past, despite the fact that she has retired. Taylor's struggle to maintain custody of her daughter despite an acrimonious relationship with the child's father is painted with an equally broad stroke. And Kim's lesbianism is played out with all the subtlety of a swift kick to the face from a steel-toed boot.

The Ranch, as a movie, is something of a mixed bag. Surely, there's enough nudity and sex to go around. But don't be fooled by the Uncut and Unrated label in the title. This is, pound for pound, fairly tame material. Oh sure, there's lots of topless ladies, simulated acts of ribaldry, some girl-girl action, and a silly-looking Elvis impersonator on the business end of a BJ. Yet there's nothing here which is stronger than anything you might see on Showtime at around 11:00 PM on a Friday night. Anyway, as the movie isn't really much of a movie. If it is (or was), as I suspect, the pilot for a proposed cable series, then perhaps The Ranch would have made for a fairly interesting show. Nothing superb or spectacular, but interesting. As a movie, it's all setup and absolutely no resolution. The acting is decent enough, and the storylines, while somewhat predictable and a little trite, are decent enough for further exploration. As a stand-alone movie, The Ranch remains little more than interesting potential but unfulfilled promise.

Video:

The Ranch is presented in a fullframe aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Although the series was made for television, and does not seem cropped or panned, there is the standard "modified to fit your TV" warning at the beginning of the program. The identity of the movie's original aspect ratio remains in limbo, since many DVDs are erroneously labeled as "modified", and given that this was a television film a fullframe aspect ratio would not be out of the questions. With that out of the way, the disc looks mostly strong. Colors are vibrant and lush, sharpness levels are adequate, and contrasts are adequately delineated. The transfer is free of noise and haloing, although a little more black level and shadow delineation wouldn't have hurt. Overall, it looks very good and does not present any major issues.

Audio:

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, and is a fine if not very challenging soundtrack. Dialog levels are sharp and clear, with some fine dynamic range to the orchestrations and discrete imaging and directionality to the front stage. Surround channels and LFE are used sparingly if at all, with the majority of the soundtrack localized in the front stage. The soundtrack does seem more like a fantastic 2.0 than an adequate 5.1 mix, but there is little too complain about here.

Extras:

The only special features on this disc are a whole bunch of trailers. There is a sneak peak at Species III, the original trailer for The Ranch, and two trailers for "Great MGM Releases".

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of lovely young ladies to go around, in various stages of undress, and just enough simulated sex to keep the horndogs happy, but overall The Ranch seems half-baked. I really enjoyed Samantha Ferris's performance as Taylor; I found her character the most believable, and her performance was easily the strongest in the bunch. Still, as I mentioned before, this film seemed to be all setup with no resolution. It's certainly decent enough, but hardly compelling, and as such this DVD would merit a rental at best. I will say that if they ever make a series out of The Ranch, I would be more than willing to give it a shot.

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