Legendary lawman Wyatt Earp (Val Kilmer) regales a reporter with the tale of how he and three of his friends pursued a pair of bloodthirsty brothers across the American southwest.
Wyatt Earpís Revenge is cheap, poorly made, badly written, and indifferently acted (the only good performances come from the horses). Itís not so much a western as it is a bunch of wannabes playacting at making a western. If I didnít know better, Iíd swear it was a direct-to-video Young Guns knockoff that went unreleased for two decades.
The plot unfolds in flashbacks, the older Earp sitting down with a reporter and explaining how he (the young Earp is played by Shawn Roberts), Bat Masterson (Matt Dallas), Charlie Bassett (Scott Whyte), and Bill Tighman (Levi Fiehler) set out to hunt down James (Daniel Booko) and Sam Kenedy (Steven Grayhm). The Kenedy boys are wanted in connection with the murder of Dora Hand (Diana DeGarmo), a singer/actress who was once in a relationship with Earp. Earpís superiors have no interest in pursuing the Kenedys, as the patriarch of the Kenedy clan, Milflin (Trace Adkins), has either bought them off or cowed them into fearing his wrath.
So itís your standard western tale of vengeance and justice; nothing unexpected about that (itís rarer to find a western that doesnít revolve around this sort of story). But the movie doesnít go anywhere, do anything, or offer any surprises. The script (by first-timer Darren Benjamin Shepherd, from a story by producers Jeffery Schenck and Peter Sullivan) meanders; thereís absolutely no drive whatsoever to the storytelling. Rather than getting to it, the movie wastes time on unnecessary asides and scenes that serve no purpose.
Director Michael Feiferís slack pacing doesnít help. Scenes that actually do serve a purpose are bloated by extraneous footage; thereís an awful lot of superfluous riding and walking here. Worse still, Feifer fumbles all of the action; the gun- and fistfights are dull and incompetently shot. (Feifer isnít new to the directing game. Heís helmed numerous television projects, but most of them are the sort of thing you find on ABC Family during the holidays, those sappy, saccharine Christmas flicks that invariably involve talking dogs or a widower who finds love with his kidsí new nanny.)
Consequently, thereís almost nothing in the way of character development. Earp is determined, the Kenedy boys are psychopaths, and everyone else is just everyone else. Earpís traveling companions are faceless, interchangeable ciphers; I couldnít keep up with who was who or why each had been chosen for the journey (other than the fact that all such stories require a posse of at least four guys). The Kenedy boys ride with two likeminded psychopaths, but Iíll be damned if I know who they are or what purpose they serve (other than symmetry, of course).
After ambling along for eighty minutes, the movies climaxes with a confrontation thatís just as dull as everything that precedes it. It looks as if the four heroes are going to end up tangling with a much larger force, but it doesnít come to be. The elder Kenedy decides he doesnít want any trouble and extricates him and most of his underlings from the story. (The movie builds him up to be some sort of ruthless warlord, but heíd apparently rather retire for the night with his pipe and slippers.) Then it looks as if the four heroes are going to duke it out with the younger Kenedys and their psycho buddies, but five of the eight participants quickly disappear (the sudden disappearance of characters is a frequent occurrence here). All youíre left with is a lame tussle between Earp and James Kenedy, and the only distraction it provides comes from trying to decide why the gunshot Kenedy takes to his right brachial artery doesnít prove to be more of a hindrance to his ability to throw punches.
Any movie not set in our world is tasked with creating an environment that looks lived-in and believable. Whether the setting is historical or otherworldly, the artifice of the setting mustnít show. Wyatt Earpís Revenge locales look phony. You can tell the sets were completed immediately before shooting began. The storefronts and homesteads look new, hastily constructed, built of materials purchased from a nearby Loweís. Clothes look new and unnaturally clean, certainly not the sort of thing youíd expect to see on people making a hardscrabble living on the open frontier. Itís noticeable right off the bat, and proves to be a distraction for the rest of the movie.
The movie claims to be based on a true story, but that claim is as specious as most such claims usually are. The plot is inspired by an event that is likely apocryphal, making an attempt to provide an explanation for a mysterious incident from Earpís life. But even if that event is true, the movieís explanation for it is completely bogus, either playing fast and loose with the truth of Earpís life (the portrayal of his first meeting with one of his most famous compatriots is contrived nonsense) or simply making things up (such as the relationship that serves as Earpís reason for undertaking his quest).
Thereís a twist at the end. Of course there is. Doesnít need to be, but there is. Itís not much of one, and it doesnít make a whole lot of sense. Doesnít make sense for Earp to know whatís going on, nor does it make sense for him to wait so long to reveal he knows. Consequently, it makes the whole of the movie not make any sense. Weíre somehow supposed to believe that events which either involved or were witnessed by dozens of people never became public knowledge, that the story of the end of a notorious criminalís exploits never went out over telegraph wires and was never printed in any newspaper. Seems a bit strange to build your movie around the idea of a newspaper reporter getting the scoop of his life and then more or less pretend newspapers donít exist.
I was a bit hasty when I stated the movie offers no surprises. There is one oddball scene in which Earp uses red twine to determine who committed the crime that kicks off the story. I donít know how it works, but somehow the string allows him to determine exactly who did the shooting and from where. Itís silly, and anachronistic as hell, but how cool would CSI: Cheyenne be?
One last thing: That explosion on the cover art? I donít know what movie thatís from, but itís certainly not from this one.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is uneven, although that unevenness is undoubtedly inherent in the original photography. Shot on digital video, the movie never has a truly film-like look, but some brightly lit exteriors come close. Interiors, on the other hand, often look flat, plastic, and unnatural; one or two are so flat they look more like they were shot on analog video. A short black-and-white sequence that follows the opening credits looks particularly bad, almost like an old over-the-air television broadcast (likely the result of having been shot in color on HD video and then digitally drained and tweaked). Blacks hold up fairly well, but thankfully there arenít that many dark scenes. Digital noise has been kept to a minimum, but look for it and youíll find it.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai varieties) is of middling quality. The front-heavy mix sends virtually nothing to the rears, and the dialogue, effects, and music are a little flat; you can hear everything, but itís all rather bland (thereís also a strange reverb in a few lines of dialogue in one scene). The low end is weak; punches sound more like weak slaps, gunshots more like cap guns being fired at the bottom of a well. English, English SDH, Chinese, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, and Thai subtitles are available.
Riding Along With Wyatt Earp (4 minutes) is a worthless behind-the-scenes piece, too short and shapeless to be of any value.
Other than make me wish a good Blu-ray version of Tombstone would hurry up and materialize, Wyatt Earpís Revenge didnít do anything for me.