Purgatory
Warner Bros. // R // $14.97 // May 17, 2005
Review by Scott Weinberg | posted May 25, 2005
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The Movie

You'd probably be right not to expect a whole lot from a Western flick originally produced for the TNT Network. But Purgatory, which boasts a colorful cast and a decidedly Twilight Zone gimmick, stands up pretty well on DVD. It ain't Unforgiven (heck, it's not even The Quick and the Dead), but there's some fun to be found in the unique little spin on an oft-told tale.

Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts) is one of those astonishingly nasty villain-types who, fresh from a blood-soaked bank robbery, leads his team of henchmen into the sleepy little frontier town of Refuge. Riding alongside Blackjack are his vicious sidekick Cavin (Peter Stormare), a wet-behind-the-ears wannabe bad guy named Sonny (Brad Rowe), and an anonymous collection of surly spittoon-fillers.

But the town of Refuge is a relatively unique one; first off, the local sheriff offers the outlaws free room and board while being as sweet as can be ... but firearms are strictly forbidden in Refuge; not even the lawmen choose to carry a weapon. And let's just say that things get a little weirder once Sonny gets to know the Refuge citizens. They go by names like Bill Hicock, Jesse James, and Doc Holliday.

To divulge much more would be to rob the newcomer of Purgatory's small parcel of surprises -- but then again the movie does a fairly good job of spoiling its own twists well before it logically ought to. Purgatory plays its hand just a little too early, which means the viewer will figure out the "twist" long before director Uli Edel spells it out in big, flashing letters.

But hey, what fan of the Western genre could say no to an all-star lineup of classic characters going toe-to-toe with a villain as treacherous as Blackjack Britton? Eric Roberts is clearly have a grand old time as the baddie, and on the side of good we have Sam Shepard, Randy Quaid and Donnie Wahlberg! (OK, so it's not exactly Silverado, either.)

Purgatory opens and closes with a pair of rock-solid gun battles, and in between is a likable little mind-twister of a Western flick. It's got a cast full of familiar faces, and a concept just clever enough to keep you curious to see what happens next. Basically, it's a cable flick Western, but one that's just a little bit more entertaining than one might logically assume.

The DVD

Video: Fullscreen, just like you saw on the TNT channel. The flick looks a mite fuzzy here and there (particularly in the darker scenes), but it's more than watchable enough.

Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English or Spanish), and it sounds precisely like you'd expect a low-budget cable channel movie to sound. Not great, not awful. English captions are offered.

Extras: A promo for two other TNT Westerns: The Desperate Trail and Last Stand at Saber River.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps I'm just a big ol' sucker for the Western flicks ('Perhaps' nothing! I love 'em!), but Purgatory found a fairly novel way in which to mix some of the classic old-school characters with just a dose of otherworldly weirdness. I dug it.



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