Starring: Tom Selleck, David Carradine, Keith Carradine, Suzy Amis
Director: Dick Lowry
Mood: Hard to peg; maybe if you’ve had a fight with your S.O. and you’re not going to break up or anything but you want to watch another couple go through shit so you can feel better about your problems, and also be glad you don’t have to keep shooting people off your lawn.
Even though this is a Tom Selleck Western, it holds a special place in my heart as the first movie where I realized the awesomeness of Keith Carradine.
If it wasn’t for Last Stand at Saber River, I wouldn’t have gone hunting for all those other Westerns like Dead Man’s Walk (prime Keith Carradine) and The Long Riders (he’s solid but it’s more of a showcase for David Carradine). But more on the Carradines later.
Last Stand at Saber River is like Little House on the Prairie on f*cking steroids.
There’s a lot of family drama, a fever tragedy, and it’s hard to find a safe place for the clan to live. Except instead of blizzards and locusts, this family has to shoot all the Union soldiers who confiscated their homestead.
The opening scenes of Last Stand at Saber River have Paul Cable (Selleck) returning to Texas after years fighting for the Confederate States Army. Everyone thought he was dead, including his wife and children.
Paul doesn’t exactly get a heartfelt welcome. Martha Cable (Suzy Amis) is angry about his lack of communication. He missed the death of one of his daughters, due to fever. His youngest, Davis (Haley Joel Osment) goes around reciting Martha’s years of voiced frustrations about how Paul chose to abandon the family.
Hoping for a fresh start someplace more welcoming, Paul packs up the family to reclaim their property in Arizona. The problem is that former Union soldier Duane Kidston (David Carradine), his son Vern (Keith Carradine), daughter Clare (Rachel Duncan), and their ranch hands now occupy that property.
Nobody wants to back down, and a shady former Confederate soldier named Janroe (David Dukes) keeps stirring the pot between the two clans.
This movie took me through a range of feelings, that’s for damn sure. It’s a little slow to start, so I thought it was going to be all ‘will they or won’t they’ about Martha and Paul Cable’s estrangement. There are lots of cute scenes where Paul is making up for lost time with his kids, and the music gives it a Disney vibe.
But then the shooting started, and it didn’t stop, and it became a family action movie if such a thing exists. Not like The Incredibles; like, two parents who are deadshots with rifles, taking care of business. And then there’s ANOTHER twist and the two people chasing down the last bad man standing aren’t who you’d expect
Okay, maybe some of you are that person who ruins every movie by predicting the plot five minutes in, and you saw that coming. A) I hate watching movies with you people, and B) why are you actively trying to ruin it for yourselves? Sit back and enjoy the ride. Sheesh.
Keith Carradine really shone as Vern Kidston. He has a fantastic range of facial expressions, including:
- Squinty – when he’s analyzing someone’s character or story
- Angry – when something unjust has happened
- Dead Serious – when he’s sighting or shooting someone
- Protective – when his task includes a kiddo
- “The truth just dawned on me!” – when he realizes lies have been told
- Cheeky – sadly not seen in this movie, but check out Dead Man’s Walk
Selleck is in fine form too, walking tall and carrying a big gun – actually, several big guns. Seriously, go check out the firearms from this movie. There’s none of his trademark charm, as Paul has zero comedic or romantic dialogue. But he does a great job evoking the ‘I’ve seen too much’ look of a man returning from war to find himself a stranger to his own family.
The character of Martha is a tricky one, because she spends the first half constantly pissed at Tom Selleck and as a fan I instantly felt defensive. But we’ve all known people who were total shit at communication, and ghosting someone for three years with your babies? Not cool.
Martha is a gunsmith and marksman, and Suzy Amis gave her this hardened-yet-wounded badassness that felt thoroughly authentic. She took you on that journey from anger to love without ever needing to be saved.
This movie isn’t in my heavy rotation, but I still think it’s a solid Western. You just have to be in the right mood, and like I said – this one is a tough nut to crack.