The Good Old Boys Review

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An old fashion cowboy has trouble adapting to the modern world


“I’m tired of these mountains,” sighs knackered-looking cowboy Hewey Calloway (Lee Jones) to his horse, Biscuit, “And if you won’t take this the wrong way, I’d sooner talk to somebody who talks back once in a while. You ain’t said nothing for two years . . .” And thus, in frame one, is the plot established: Nomadic Texan quits wilderness after two-year trotabout.
Cue: Ry Cooder-style theme while our two heroes point out some stunning New Mexico scenery in a homeward direction and the credits roll, most of which, tellingly, have Tommy Lee Jones’ name in them. Star, first-time director and even co-screenwriter with J.T.Allen (from the book by Elmer Kelton) this is, without a shadow of a doubt, a pet project. A Costner without the cost. Made for cable in America, straight to video over here, this humble, dusty tale of homesteaders and horsebreakers in the Mild West is completely free of pretension, pioneering in story only. High plains drifter Calloway returns to the ranch of his brother Walter (Kinney) and Eve (McDormand), who reluctantly welcome him back into the fold, where he exerts a wayward, anarchic influence over their two sons, and, pretty soon, over prim, parasol-clutching school ma’am Spring (Sissy Spacek), leading to an inevitable Will-he-settle-down-or-won’t-he? love conundrum.
The result is an overlong episode of Little House On The Prairie, minus the action, and saddled with an authenticity of Texan drawl to put off all but the multi-lingual. This key period in American history (and there ain’t many to choose from) loses a great deal in Transatlantic translation, and Lee Jones’ portrayal packs none of the punch of his more urban roles (The Client, The Fugitive), rarely getting above coy. Unsurprisingly, Calloway gets down to some soul-enriching hard graft on the farmstead, triumphantly makes the $875.50 needed to pay off his brother’s loan to the symbolically fat landlords (battered Stetsons in the air!), and earns the ultimate compliment from his once-sceptical nephew, Cotton: “Uncle Hewey, you’re a good old boy!” Or, to borrow a phrase from Eve: “a good-for-nothing old boy”. Pet projects don’t always win prizes.

Ho hum western with an all star cast.