Wednesday, April 20, 2011

DEADLY SHOOTER

The American Ninja goes West as Michael Dudikoff, star of that worthy 80s action series, trades in his shuriken and nunchaku for a blue-steel Schofield revolver in DEADLY SHOOTER (a/k/a THE SHOOTER), a Fred Olen Ray-directed, B-Western from 1997.

Dudikoff (CHAIN OF COMMAND, AVENGING FORCE) is Michael Atherton, a Civil War hero who comes across a woman (Valerie Wildman, NEON CITY) being whipped by a gang of cowboys. He guns them down and rescues her, but the leader of the gang is the son of Jerry Krants (the great William Smith, FAST COMPANY, THE LOSERS) a powerful local rancher. Of course, Krants doesn't take kindly to his heir getting killed - by a Yankee, no less - so he and his boys ride into town and threaten to "turn it into a graveyard" it if Atherton isn't turned over....

Like most latter day B-Westerns, DEADLY SHOOTER's story is a patchwork quilt of characters and plot points lifted from countless other horse operas, stitched together reasonably well by screenwriter Tony Giglio; you can still see the seams, but the overall effect is comfortingly familiar and enjoyable enough.

Exploitation maestro Fred Olen Ray (EVIL TOONS, HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS) keeps everything moving at a brisk pace, and the above-average cast acquit themselves quite well. Dudikoff is sullenly satisfactory as the taciturn good guy gunfighter, and Big Bill Smith brings considerable emotional heft and grim menace to his otherwise stock character. Producer Andrew Stevens (THE TERROR WITHIN) also appears in a supporting role. The standout performance, though, comes from country music star Randy Travis, as a charismatic gunslinger whose motives and intentions are not always clear. The cinematography by Gary Graver is professionally competent, but, aside from a few flashes of female nudity, DEADLY SHOOTER looks and feels very much like a TV movie.

The new DVD release from Vivendi Entertainment sports as simple, 1.33:1, "full frame," non-anamorphic transfer and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, approximating the original VHS home video release. The print is in good shape, with no real dirt or damage in evidence, and the transfer is reasonably sharp. It's not a reference-quality disc, but it's okay. There are no extras included.

DEADLY SHOOTER is an entertaining little formula Western with a decent cast and a couple of good action sequences. If you're a fan of the genre, it might be worth a rental.

BUY: Deadly Shooter