The Virginian (2014) – Thomas Makowski

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Also available from Anchor Bay today is this updated, gritty reimagining of the classic television series, The Virginian.

As I love a good western, I settled into take a look at this one, and quickly discovered that it contains pretty much all the tropes and moments you would expect from the generic western. There’s the pretty school teacher, Molly (Victoria Pratt), there’s the cattle ranch, in this case run by Judge Henry (Ron Perlman) and there’s the hero with the strong moral code, South, or The Virginian as he’s also called, played by Trace Adkins.

All the expected beats are there, and thank god that everyone around Adkins is a competent actor, as sadly, he neither comes across as personable nor likeable, and certainly doesn’t seem to be a strong enough actor to carry a picture on his own. He seems severely mis-cast in this role, but everyone else around him is more than capable, and tend to be far more interesting in their performances than anything Adkins brings to the screen.

The Virginian works as a ranch enforcer for the Judge and he’s paired with a writer, Owen (Brendan Penny), who comes to their frontier town to work on his novel about cattle rustling and the code of the west, something he expects and hopes to experience first hand at South’s side. When Owen begins to question some of the morals and codes at work, sentiments echoed by the lovely Molly, whom South is apparently taken with, he begins to rethink everything in his life to this date.

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The more he starts to question his place in the world and on the cattle farm, the more he begins to suspect that the Judge may have ulterior motives in the way he’s been raised, and what he’s actually meant to be doing.

There is trouble aplenty, as cattle goes missing, an old enemy, Trampas (Steve Bacic) shows up to stir trouble, that will no doubt end up in violence between the two of them, and at the center of it is greed – as money, cattle and land all seem to be up for grabs, and The Virginian is well on the trail to learning who is really behind it all.

The scenery is gorgeous, the sets and locations add a true western feel to the film and it has some nice action beats, but what we’re left with is a fairly generic western, and the most interesting characters are given a short shrift to instead focus on Adkin’s lack of characterization. I would have been more intrigued if Owen’s or Molly’s character had been more drawn into the plot, if perhaps they could have been The Virginian instead.

If you love westerns, or grew up with the original series, you do need to take a look at this and then let me know what you thought of it. Am I right in my opinion on Adkins? Who would you have cast?

The Virginian is available today from Anchor Bay!

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