The unusually named Broken Trail has nothing to with gay cowboys on the old frontier but everything to do with persevering in the Old West when lawlessness was everywhere and men thought only about themselves and worldly pleasures. The AMC mini series stars Academy Award Winner Robert Duvall and Academy Award Nominee Thomas Haden Church as uncle and nephew, respectively, bringing a herd of wild horses across the frontier to make money and set out on an adventure. But while the story starts with just the two of them, I certainly doesn’t end there as series of unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on how you look at it) events bring to men together with five Chinese girls sold into slavery among other accomplices in need of assistance.

Writer Alan Geoffrion’s story is fleshed out and interesting enough to keep you interested but after the first hour you may wonder why the mini was expanded to three hours (four with commercials). In fact, the story doesn’t really start going until well through the first night of the two night event when the main antagonist makes herself evident. There is a lot of character development, and while it’s much appreciated by everyone in the audience, some portions of the film, once again, feel as though they are slightly padding. As the movie goes on the heart and honesty that these seemingly rugged cowboys possess becomes ever the more apparent.

The brutality of the Old West isn’t shied away from either as gun battles, hangings, and attempted rapes are a staple of the conflict the main characters must face every day during their adventure. One particularly surprising moment is a bloody shoot-first-explain-later battle in which Duvall’s character Print Ritter opens fire for seemingly no reason on another man. Its only after his corpse lays before the men do we learn why these events took place.

Walter Hill’s direction and cinematography takes advantage of the untamed wilderness with some amazing shots showcasing beautiful sunsets and vistas, just as they would have appeared before the skyscraper seemed to block out all the mountains from view.

Duvall, who also produced the film, still has a lot in him playing his signature old, wise character he’s played in many movies before, but the character suits him well and he fills the role wonderfully. The soon-to-be-Sandman Church plays the role of the slightly troubled, but adventuring Tom Harte equally as well. The supporting cast, including the five Chinese girls who come to join the troop, are played very well as their actions and facial expressions must speak for them due to their lack of English skills. Even without the subtitles on portions of the film you’d still be able to figure out what was going on due to the quality of the acting.

The immense amount of talent associated with this production has the high production values oozing out, and it defiantly shows in almost every facet. Writing, direction, and acting, the movie definitely sets a bar for made-for productions.

Billing itself as AMC’s First Original Movie, Broken Trail is a worthy addition to the channel’s original content and a great overall film that brings you believably back to the Old West which shows it in the most dramatic light possible with an unflinching no-holds-barred look into a way of life that once dominated a great portion of our country.

Written by Erich Becker
Thirty-something with a love of everything we cover here, and a few things we don't. Erich has run Entertainmentopia since the site's inception in 1999, countless redesigns, a few crashes, and a lot of media later, here you have it!