Description (from the DVD insert):
Hobbs, a notorious wanted bandit, gets caught up in a violently competitive hunt for stolen cash when he finds out outlaws have robbed the local bank. While trying to get back what’s his he must saddle up to stop these outlaws leaving whomever stands in his way dead!
Craig Myers as Hoss Williams, Billy Garberina as Lionel Gage, Jeremy Owen as Leonard Cross, Phil Duran as Joe Vargas, Alexander Thorne as Hermann Wenkel, A.J. Rome as Peter Mason, Justin Tade as Marion
Commentary with Writer/Director Craig A. Butler and Billy Garberina, Behind the Scenes with Interviews, Trailer Gallery, Widescreen Presentation, English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio, Optional English and Spanish Subtitles
Written and Directed by Craig A. Butler
I’m sure some of you may be wondering why I am reviewing a movie that was released on Lionsgate. As you probably know, the point of Ryan’s Reviews is to review “low- and no-budget films of any genre,” and by low-budget what I mean is less than a million dollars. That may sound like a lot, but for movies, that is a REALLY low budget; in Hollywood under ten million is generally considered “low-budget.” Truthfully, the vast majority of the films I review are well, well, WELL below that mark, but most people wouldn’t consider a Lionsgate film as being low budget. This one is. It doesn’t look like it, at all, but it is.
THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED was created by Craig A. Butler’s 505 Films, and was only distributed by Lionsgate. What this means right out of the gate is that this is a really well made movie. Sure, lots of movies get national distribution, and lots of those movies are not that well made (see some of my reviews for examples!), but not too many truly independent movies are picked up by one of the major (or mini-major, as some call Lionsgate) studios for nationwide release. TR&tW has accomplished this feat, and by doing that you should know that this is a really well made movie.
From the first frame the picture quality on TR&tW is stunning, as good as most major releases I’ve seen lately. The images are crisp, the focus is sharp, the colors are striking; this is a pretty movie to watch, and it most certainly does not reveal its modest budget! Garberina, as Director of Photography, certainly proves his talents behind the camera in TR&tW. To go along with the image, the sound is also top-notch. It is not quite up with the major releases, but it is leaps and bounds above the vast majority of the independent films I’ve seen. Overall, the production quality of TR&tW is just, well, flabbergasting; it’s hard to believe that this movie is not over a million dollars. If I didn’t know better and I had just received it from one of the distributors that send me movies, I’d probably not have reviewed it, assuming it was outside the scope of this site.
TR&tW is a western, but really only in the fact that it takes place in the old west. There are no cowboys and Indians, no prospectors, no really western aspects to the film other than its setting. Really, TR&tW is more of a crime drama; it reminds me more of HEAT than THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Hoss has cooked up a scheme to rob a local mining company of over $7,000 (a shit-ton of money for the time), and to get it done everyone in his outfit has to do their job right and do it at the right time. It is a complicated scheme, with a grand pay off. Unfortunately, complicated schemes involving criminals and money rarely go smoothly, and the story in TR&tW is no exception. Things quickly get complicated, and to add a little fuel to the fire there is also a vigilante bounty hunter looking to settle a score with Hobbs, and whoever gets in the way will be a casualty.
Butler is an impressive director. Not only has he achieved the feat of getting his independent movie not only nationally distributed, but nationally distributed by Lionsgate, he also has crafted a great plot, a great script, and overall has pulled great performances out of his cast. The cast is one of the few places that one might guess the budget constraints of TR&tW; there are no big names here. For those of you familiar with the low-budget world, there are a lot of familiar names, but there are no A-listers. That doesn’t matter. All around there are strong performances throughout TR&tW. Some are stronger than others, but even the lesser performances are still better than the majority of films at this budget level. Garberina’s especially slimy as Gage, and Tade’s Marion is great as well, but I was especially impressed with Jeremy Owen’s performance; he is spot-on as the conflicted, pacifistic Cross, both a good guy and a bad guy, someone to fear and someone with fear, Owen sort of stole the show for me. On the weaker side, I was not always able to believe Myers as Hoss, and while the acting from Thorne was fine, the accent could have used a little more refinement. Don’t get me wrong though: everyone put in good work in TR&tW, but the work some put in was exceptional.
One year, while attending the Santa Fe Screenwriting Conference, I sat in a class called “Writing Champagne Movies on a Beer Budget.” It was basically the do’s and don’ts of screenwriting if you are planning on making your film independently. There were three big no-no’s: 1. No Children, 2. No Animals, 3. No Genre Pieces. These were just too tough to pull off without funding. Children have time constraints as to how long they can work, and then can take much longer to get the performance you are looking for, so it can shoot your production schedule in the foot. Animals do not have the time constraints, but can be even harder to work with, and trained animals are expensive. And genre pieces involve expensive sets, expensive wardrobes, expensive props… pretty much they’re just expensive. When I heard that Butler was going to attempt a western, this class immediately popped back into my head. He was going to be breaking at least two of the three no-no’s, just by the fact that he was making a western. I wanted to believe that he could pull it off, but I was afraid that it would be impossible. Well played, Butler, well played. Not only was he able to get horses, and guns, and costumes, he actually managed to get an old west town. A goddamned town. I’m still a bit shocked.
Overall, I just can’t believe that TR&tW is something that I can review! It should be out of my scope, by far. It is a really well written, really well executed film that breaks the rules of what a low-budget movie has to be. It is a crime drama set in the old west, it has everything needed to make it a believable flick, and it is well under that million-dollar mark. Well under. It’s no wonder Lionsgate decided to distribute it. It is not a perfect film (some of the acting could be a bit stronger, the editing could have been a bit tighter, and the backgrounds could have had more filler), but the pros definitely outweigh the cons on TR&tW. By far. Well played, 505 Films, well played. I can’t wait to see what you come up with next.
Overall 9 / 10
TR&tW on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1478856/
TR&tW for sale: http://wp.505films.com/?p=100
TR&tW site: http://www.505films.com