After robbing a bank in a small western town, an outlaw stops by the home of his estranged wife and takes his own son hostage. The town’s aging sheriff (Patrick Duffy) teams with the boy’s grandfather (Stacy Keach) to take the outlaw down and save the child’s life. Accompanying them is the bank president, Edwin Bornstein (David Rees Snell). Edwin may be a city boy who talks about how much he’s always wanted to say “I reckon,” but it turns out that there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s also good with a gun.
I probably should have given up on Desolation Canyon as soon as I saw that it was a “Hallmark Presents” film but I like westerns and Stacy Keach has always done well whenever he’s been cast as a gunslinger so I decided to give it a try. Starting with a bank robbery and endings with a duel, Desolation Canyon is about as old-fashioned as an old-fashioned western can be. Because it was made by Hallmark, there’s nothing dangerous or edgy about the film. A few people do get shot but there’s no blood. The shoot outs in Red Dead Redemption are more violent and suspenseful than anything to be found in this film. (Of course, that’s because most of the shootouts in Red Dead Redemption occur because the play pushed the wrong button while trying to greet someone. I still feel bad for accidentally shooting the kindly old homesteader who just wanted someone to help him collect some flowers for his wife.) This is the type of western that you can safely watch with your grandparents, since that’s who the film was made for. That’s not bad because grandparents need movies to but if you’re looking for a complex or an unpredictable western in the style of a Larry McMurtry novel or a later Eastwood film, I reckon this ain’t it.
Giving some credit where credit is due, Stacy Keach, David Rees Snell, and even Patrick Duffy are credible in their roles. Stacy Keach is especially convincing a former gunfighter who can still outdraw anyone. Stacy Keach is 81 years old and still working. Someone needs to write a great Stacy Keach role and they need to do it now.