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You Know My Name

Warner Bros. // Unrated // May 30, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted July 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Set in 1924 Oklahoma, this is a film about the twilight days of Bill Tilghman (Sam Elliott), former 1880's cow town lawman and partner of Wyatt Earp, who these days is trying to make a living being a movie director and producer of silent Westerns that strive to give the audience historical accuracy and plausibility rather than simply cater to telling generic stories based on the Old West. His intentions are honorable; he states that he doesn't want actors like Tom Mix in his films because "Tom Mix is too pretty to be from Oklahoma" but he's finding that financial backing isn't nearly as easy to obtain as he would like. Life is pretty quiet for him until he is paid a visit from a friend who sees a need for Tilghman to return to service in the capacity he is best at- cleaning up a town that is fast turning dirty.

In the short span of six months the oil producing boomtown of Cromwell, Oklahoma sees its population boom from 500 to 10,000 people. With that boom has come a kind of lawlessness and corruption the likes of which neither the town nor its residents have ever seen or known, and they certainly aren't prepared to regulate it in any way. The only form of peace officer in the area is FBI agent Wiley Lynn (Arliss Howard), who seemingly has his hands in as much of the corruption as one man can handle in order to further is own personal wealth and pleasure. With the town about to be moving towards statewide recognition, Tilghman is called in by the citizens to try to police the streets and quell the wanton crime changing their little world.

Told in a quiet, thoughtful manner, this movie handles a number of interesting topics dealing with the passage of time as seen through the eyes of the cowboys who have lived to see progress boom in the early years of the 20th century; the kind of crime Tilghman walks into in Cromwell is on one hand familiar, but not at the level he is seeing here. Drugs seem to quickly be taking a hold on the area, with a curious little mixture of cocaine and morphine being the cocktail of choice for many of the less than ideal new residents. Prostitution is pretty much advertised on the streets with more aplomb than one would see in modern day Nevada. This is also the beginning of the Prohibition era and moonshine appears to be a thriving commodity, coming off of every stretch of land available for its production. The original residents of the once small town are far outnumbered by these new strangers who have shown up on the streets, teeming and setting up seamy little establishments of their own in tents and sleeping bags. There are gun toting hoodlums freely walking about knowing that law enforcement is almost nonexistent in the area. The town streets are nothing but mud and sewage, every step taken one with which you are apt to sink 6 inches into the ground. Cromwell may not be the city of Sodom, but it isn't far removed from it.

Enter Tilghman, a larger than life figure who's story is sadly not nearly as well known what the real-life character deserves. At almost 70, old Bill is a retired peace officer who has rode with the Earps and Bat Masterson in Dodge City, chased Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, brought to justice the likes of outlaw Bill Doolin, Cattle Annie and Little Britches and even met Wild Bill Hickock in his day. A man known for being honest and tough with his own code of ethics and morality, Bill's days of simply doing his job serving justice have long since passed. In spite of that, he takes the position as Marshall of the town with hopes of at least turning things around so Cromwell can be better regulated by the law. Unfortunately for him the job is alot, too much, to ask of one man, especially one not used to seeing corruption on such a rampant scale and with virtually no assistance in his cause. Quite the contrary- the only other officer with jurisdiction in the area being Wiley, who is very convincingly played by Howard here; he's a frightening man who is a loose cannon of chilling proportions portrayed as someone you can easily revile, in fact is despicable- a cocaine addict seen in the movie almost always stoned, strung out and dangerous to all of those around him, he has his hands firmly on bootleg and drug profiteering and has no intentions on allowing an old lawman the likes of Tilghman an opportunity to come along and threaten what has become his personal cash cow.

By no means your typical Western, Warner Bros. has brought to the screen a fascinating character study on the last days of Bill Tilghman- seen fiercely in love with his wife and children, trying to make a living in a period far removed from the one in which he spent his youth. In visual terms Elliott is the consummate cowboy, and seems born to play roles such as this one. Most times his work is seen in a supporting capacity with characters far more one dimensional than Tilghman, but here he is given center stage and a chance to shine in this role, portraying a man diverse yet grounded, somewhat tolerant of fools and patient with youth, both savvy in his work yet naive of the manner in which this new era demands he do his job. The world has moved on, but Bill comes from a lineage of honorable men that refused to turn away when called to duty. Its cowboy versus gangsters, complete with six shooters and rifles going up against machine guns. He has no trouble seeing where the true problems lie, but has taken on far more than any one man could conceivably handle.


Video is presented here in matted widescreen format, enhanced for 16x9 televisions, presumably 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It's a fine print, clean with little in the way of dirt or damage, a decent degree of sharpness and good color representation.


Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Its a good track that serves the material well, clear and easy to understand.


"Lawmakers Of The West" Featurette-
Coming in at 10 minutes and featuring director John Kent Harrison, this is a synopsis of how the film was laid out and some of the lengths gone to in order to give the Tilghman character the believability the filmmakers desired. Definitely worth checking out.

Final Thoughts-

Clocking in at 94 minutes the movie does seem a bit short, as the story that unwinds seems to deserve a bit more room to breathe, and in fact the director brings up this point in the featurette. Surprisingly this is not at all the Western I had expected; You Know My Name covers some ground that other filmmakers would do well to consider when filming Old West movies in the years to come. Recommended.
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