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Monte Walsh

Monte Walsh

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Monte Walsh and Chet Rollins are long-time cowhands, working whatever ranch work comes their way, but “nothing they can’t do from a horse.” Their lives are divided between months on the range and the occasional trip into town. Monte has a long-term relationship with prostitute Martine Bernard, while Chet has fallen under the spell of the widow who owns the hardware store. Camaraderie and competition with the other cowboys fill their days, until one of the hands, Shorty Austin, loses his job and gets involved in rustling and killing. Then Monte and Chet find that their lives on the range are inexorably redirected.

Wonderful character study

The TNT remake of “Monte Walsh” is a wonderfully detailed character study of aging cowboys and their struggle with the decline of the old west.

Tom Selleck, Keith Carradine, William Devane, James Gammon and Barry Corbin are the last of a dying breed and they don’t accept the inevitable change that progress brings. “I won’t do anything I can’t do from a horse” is the condition Monte Walsh demands for accepting a job at a corporate ranch.

There is more than a little humor in this film as the cowboys deal with their own mortality as well as the end of their way of life. William Saunders small but engaging turn as the trail cook Skimpy provides some welcome comic relief to an otherwise wistful and touching story.

This film has great acting, beautiful photography, gorgeous music and a wonderfully understated style of direction by Simon Wincer.

Westerns don’t get any better than this

Monte Walsh, This is a made for TV movie? Hmmm, maybe I should try watching more TV.

This isn’t a “western,” this is a work of art. Every element, every line, every character falls into place perfectly, like a work of nature, rather than a mere movie script. I guess one reason is that the pacing, the rhythm is just right.

The emotions generated are uncontrived and sincere. The characters have remarkable depth. You really care whether they live or die.

And like a true tragedy, you even care when a bad guy dies, having a sense that it is a waste of a life that could, and should have turned out differently.

Perhaps what is so remarkable about this movie is that, like High Noon, it does not exactly have a happy ending. It is a sad but extraordinarily beautiful movie.

If you haven’t seen it, you may even want to buy a copy. I have seen it several times, and I have found it just as beautiful and moving each time. It is worth watching just for the extraordinary cinematography alone.

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