Directed by Tiller Russell, The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride does a decent enough job of convincing us that it takes place in Texas even if the credits make it pretty clear that it was shot in Canada. Tint the picture enough and give it a sort of dusty look, and voila, rural Canada all of a sudden becomes rural Texas circa 1912 or something close to it. The opening drum and guitar music track doesn't sound all that authentic, but beggars can't be choosers, right? Oh, and the opening narration that tells us how the narrator was eleven years old when General Batista slaughtered her village and killed her daddy doesn't sound all that Texan either, more like an actress faking it, but hey, the visuals aren't half bad.
The movie, for what it's worth, begins when a woman named Juliette Flowers (Lizzie Caplan) decides to bring the body of Ransom Pride (Scott Speedman) back to his home town in Texas after he falls prey to a bunch of nasty banditos who gun him down, cold blooded style, in the streets of some podunk town in Mexico. This isn't going to be easy for her, however, as there's a Reverend Pride (Dwight Yoakam) who want this to happen and more than a few bounty hunters to contend with along the way. If that weren't bad enough, Juliette also has to deal with a Mexican Bruja (Cote de Pablo) who, like most Bruja's, has evil intentions. Thankfully, there's a pair of Siamese twins and a midget with an itchy trigger finger around to help her out, along with Ransom's younger brother, Champ (John Foster), who would also like to see Ransom brought back for those proper last rites that the title infers are due him.
Lizzy Caplan isn't bad in the lead here, holding her own against some male heavyweights (including the mighty Kris Kristofferson, who is sorely underused in this picture and who probably shot all of his scenes in one day) and bringing a good screen presence to the role. She's got a mouth on her that gives her an intimidation factor and manages to look right for the part, giving a much harder edge performance than we're used to seeing from her in projects like True Blood and Hot Tub Time Machine (or, if you want to go back even further, Freaks And Geeks, where many a red blooded male started to crush on her for the first time). Cameos from Jason Priestly and Peter Dinklage are amusing enough but the man who steals the show here is Mr. Yoakam. If you've seen Fincher's Panic Room then you know the guy can act and act he does, delivering a memorable turn playing his role with complete believability. The cast help this picture, which appears to have been made on a fairly modest budget, rise above typical western clichés and trappings and ensure that, if it's not a classic, it's at least entertaining enough.
The movie zips along at a good pace and features enough action and violence to keep it interesting. The DVD screener sent for review notes that it's rated R for violence and the film earns that R rating. It gets fairly bloody in spots and doesn't shy away from a bit of misogyny which seems in keeping with the social mores of the era in which it purports to take place. There are some make up effects that don't work very well and the director's penchant to shroud many of his more mysterious characters in shadows sometimes feels like a cheap trick to hide some shortcomings, but this is easy to look past thanks to more than a few moments that do feature some rather inspired camera work. Worth complaining about are a few scenes that feature forced subtitles. Rather than use a standard font, the film instead uses a sort of 'hand written western guy' font, in white, and often times over very light colors. This isn't just visually obnoxious, but it's flat out hard to read in spots. The good does outweigh the bad though. This won't change your life or even make you think, but it's entertaining enough and Lizzy Caplan is fun to watch.
NOTE: This review is based off of a screening copy that doesn't represent final, finished, retail product.
The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride arrives on DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. While a lot digitally tweaked shots stand intentionally sapped of their color stand out like a sore thumb, the movie (shot on digital video) looks pretty good for the most past. There are some spots where detail suffers at the hands of some inferior lighting but color reproduction is generally decent enough (keep in mind this was shot with a fairly grim looking color scheme) even if black levels aren't quite reference quality. While hardly a remarkable image, it's watchable enough but unfortunately the disc is bugged with SCREENING COPY ONLY, so it's obviously not what you're going to get if you buy it off the shelf.
The primary audio option on this release is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Mix, though an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are provided. There's enough front channel seperation throughout the mix that it'll make you stand up and take notice when it needs to, but it's really nothing all that exciting for the most part. The score sounds alright, and dialogue is clear and well balanced but there isn't quite as much punch to some of the gunshots as you might expect. There aren't any serious problems to report, it's just a little underwhelming is all.
This preview disc says that a featurette and commentary are provided on the 'live version' but since they're not included here, it's impossible to say if they're any good or not. Aside from that, we get a trailer for the feature, some menus, and chapter selection.
The Last Rites Of Ransom Pride is entertaining enough as a time killer. Even if it isn't the best of the modern westerns, it's got a good cast and some stand out scenes and it makes use of some good camera work. The test disc sent for review looks and sounds decent enough, but there aren't any extras here to discuss, making it impossible to evaluate the package as a whole. With that said, fans of low budget westerns ought to enjoy the movie for what it is. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.