The Showdown Review

The Showdown is the kind of film you used to come across all too often in the age of the video store, the bottom shelf cornerstone that was always left untouched. There is nothing about this film that impresses, but rather plenty that disappoints. Here is a western woefully undone by its low-budget approach. Most will agree with me when I say the best westerns, the grittiest, most memorable ones were shot on film. Showdown looks like it's shot on HD, though the lack of clarity in some scenes makes me wonder if it wasn’t shot on a digital prosumer camera. There’s nothing about the film that immediately stands out or draws you in. Rather, you are faced with 90-odd minutes of rooting for the film to get better, to pick up or impress in some satisfying way, big or small.

Instead, you are rewarded with a half-baked derivative story, stoic performances that make you question whether the actors aren’t just entering the scene to hit their mark, an imitation western soundtrack and the call-sign of low-budget filmmaking: inconsistent and amateurish cinematography. I don’t mean to be so harsh on the film since I tried very hard to enjoy it; I wanted to see past the unprofessional filmmaking pulling it down, but I just couldn’t. This is a film only the cast and crew could enjoy to its full potential. It’s filled with a variety of errors: from erratic wounds letting noticeably inconsistent amounts of blood despite the same circumstances (eventually people just don’t bleed when they get shot but grab for their chest and fall down) to C-grade acting that fails to be either convincing or at all emotional.

The actors seem to inhabit not the characters, but the genre stereotypes they represent. There are homely attempts to show a community within the confines of the town, which sometimes so blatantly betrays the set it was filmed on that disbelief cannot be suspended. Still, characters enter and exit the story, spitting tough guy lines while adjusting their belt buckles from time to time. At least the majority of the cast sits well on their horses and some nice scenery is featured from time to time.

The story is not simply standard but engineered to be as predictable as possible. Asa Brown (Bill Homel) and his posse steal some horses and run afoul of good ol' boy Marshall Luke Canfield (Bob Handegan). Canfield is our hero, a man outfitted with morals and an excellently dimpled chin. He is courting the unfortunately named Dixie Johnson (Ann Hagemann), a saloon dancer. Problem is, Asa has an eye on Dixie as well. Things escalate, the plot thickens (like a low-fat soup) and Canfield must face Asa and his gang in the titular showdown without which the film would probably be even worse. Action is customary, with a gunfight and bar brawl scattered here and there. The scenes are serviceable at best, but begin to unwind toward the end of the film, more haphazardly shot, as if the cast and crew were in a rush to finish the film. This hurts the last 30-40 minutes in particular as clumsy blocking and coverage doing little to mask the amateur earmarks.

As it happens, the showdown is more disappointing than you could possibly imagine, directed with zero tension by Jim Conover, who also wrote the script. In fact, the ending is an exercise in absurdity, with one of the characters immediately forgetting about his murdered family in order to partake in celebration with the man who just killed them. I was happy to see this scene close out the film nevertheless, since by that point I had become suddenly fatigued and strangely sleepy. Who would I recommend The Showdown to? Die-hard western fans and masochists? Probably not.

DVD Bonus Features

All that's included are some trailers for similarly raggedy homemade westerns and a trailer for the film itself. To my knowledge, the DVD I reviewed had no main menu, but it may just be the case with the screener. We can only hope.

"The Showdown" is on sale April 21, 2009 and is rated NR. Action, Adventure, Western. Written and directed by Jim Conover. Starring Ann Hagemann, Bill Homel , Bob Handigan.

Mark Zhuravsky • Staff Writer

I'm a prolific blogger, writer and editor who loves film.



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