The general belief is that the western is dead. Modern audiences haven’t embraced the genre in a long time and over the last decade or so there have been few big budget attempts at bringing the ‘Oater’ back to the masses. However, away from the mainstream there have been quite a few interesting westerns made, the latest of these is The Warrant. This low-budget effort impresses on a performance and screenplay level, which more than makes up for the film’s limited visual scope.
Set across different time frames during and after the American Civil War, The Warrant tells the story of two former friends who now find themselves on different sides of the law. Neal McDonough is John Breaker, an upstanding Sheriff tasked with bringing in The Saint (Casper Van Dien), a villainous outlaw with nasty reputation and a gang of thugs to match.
Neal McDonough’s performance is at the every centre of The Warrant and he’s the main reason the film works. The man has movie star charisma and he’s great at selling the film’s humour and the more dramatic moments. His chemistry with Steven R. McQueen (grandson of Steve McQueen) and Gregory Cruz is great and he’s wonderful at portraying the loving father, the exasperated old friend and badass lawman (with a touch of John Wayne swagger). The man should be a much, much bigger name. He’s great.
The rest of the cast also deliver great work. Alongside the aforementioned McQueen and Cruz is former Starship Trooper Casper Van Dien, who also gives a committed performance as the grizzled villain of the piece. It might be time to reevaluate him too.
Shea Sizemore’s screenplay for The Warrant may embrace many of the western genre’s tropes, but it’s all the better for it. However, Sizemore also manages to build plenty of character into the script, letting motivation and action help us understand who these men are and what they’ve been through. The writer also has a good ear for dialogue and there are some wonderful lines embedded into the text.
On the surface, The Warrant might appear a little rough around the edges because of it’s low budget, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot to offer. The performances hit the mark in a big way and the writing is incredibly strong. There’s also enough gunplay and the obligatory final shoot-out to keep fans of the genre happy. Films like this can easily slip through the cracks, so you owe it to yourself to make sure that doesn’t happen.