Broken Trail (spoilers) Observations

AMC’s original 2-part movie Broken Trail with Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church began last night and will have its conclusion tonight. No telling how many reruns there will be in the near future.

I just saw Open Range for the first time last week so the comparison is fresh in my mind. It’s been years since I last saw Lonesome Dove (the Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall one) so those comparisons will be weaker.

I like the tone of the latest one, and think Church is doing a good job of establishing a new facet of his career. I remember him in Billy Bob Thornton’s The Badge as an ineffectual gay barkeep, in Sideways as a convincing con man, and as one of the Clantons in Tombstone as a blowhard coward. This role in BT is a fresh take and he’s doing it well.

One thing that’s bugging me is Duvall’s character. Don’t get me wrong: I think Duvall is one of the best actors working today and I have him in the same league as Brando, DeNiro, Hackman, Eastwood amd several other top-drawer older actors. And the character he seems to be reprising in this trilogy is one I really enjoy.

The thing that’s bugging me is that I can’t decide whose characterization(s) he’s borrowing from. I know he’s done a lot to set this charctaer apart from others, and has done well in that effort. But who is he influenced by? Ward Bond? John McIntire? Strother Martin? It’s almost as if Duvall plays Duvall in everything he does, and that’s okay because he picks Duvall roles.

But of all the iconic Western characters over the years (TV and movies) who do you think Duvall most resembles?

Other Broken Trail comments and issues are welcome here.

You captured my feelings exactly. Watching last night I kept thinking of OR and LD and was also trying to figure just who he was… other than Duvall. Overall I think it’s weaker than those two but am enjoying it okay and’ll watch again tonite.

The story really hasn’t taken any risks yet though. Whenever you think bad things are about to happen or that an integral character is going to get wounded or “kilt” off… nothing.

Heh, did enjoy Church’s comment about his rope.

I liked it. Seems like the writers are setting things up nicely for a climax tonight, so I’ll watch the conclusion for sure. I also really liked how few commercials there were. I don’t usually watch much live TV anymore, so it was a pleasant surprise.

I had also meant to say that BT reminds me of the come-on purported to be in the military’s bag of tricks back during the Nam era:

Travel to exotic places, meet interesting people, and kill them.

My wife isn’t all that big a fan of Westerns, even though we just saw Brokeback Mountain on DVD for the first time yesterday afternoon. I told her the theme of BT was: drive horses across the West, meet interesting people, and kill them.

Surely they’ll quit bumping into shitbags on the trail before that gets to be old hat.

Doesn’t the town they were in remind you of Deadwood?

Same here. Applause to AMC.

Sorry, haven’t seen Deadwood.

[SPOILER]Did it strike you as a bit of a stretch that the fella carting the Chinese girls, the same guy that was the bought Sheriff in OR, would abandon the women so easily and leave such a clear trail after commiting a hanging offence? He abandoned a valuable commodity, commited a crime that carried the death penalty and marked his very short escape trail with horse dung and a large, smoky fire.

I also had a real hard time judging Duval’s reaction once Church returned to the camp. The camera went to him but he never said anything with his voice or face.[/SPOILER]

the only thing that really bothered me about it (slow build-up for tonight aside) was

The first town they try to dump the girls in happens to be the one with their true owner in them

I don’t have a problem with that as I thought they pretty much portrayed him as a stuiped drunken Jackhole that would be ignorant enough to try something like that. I’m still trying to figure out how he managed it though.


Is it me or has the girl Captain Jackhole ran off with and raped was the same one being raped in town?

He poured something from a small bottle into the liquor bottle, then offered drinks to the cowboys. Even when Duvall said enough, he continued to fill his cup. Obviously, it was some form of knockout/sleeping substance.

Dang it, I cried. Excellent movie. I actually wish it was longer, it seemed a little choppy at points.

So, this was based on a true story…?

What’s the significance of Siam Bend? Did he think the girls were Thai?

Me too. It almost felt like there were little sections that would have enriched the show, but hit the cutting room floor instead.

The end was especially disappointing for me. I wanted something more final for Church’s character–I wouldn’t mind a sequel showing what future challenges he’d have to overcome. I was kind of rooting for a “big happy family” ending, with all the girls together.

Did anybody else get a laugh out of Church’s line to the madam–“That’s what you get for being a capitalist.”? My mother and I looked at each other and I asked, “Did he really just say something about being a capitalist?” She nodded, then I said, “He’s been reading Marx. He’s a dirty Bolshevik!” “It was pretty progessive of him, wasn’t it,” she replied. “Maybe he’s actually from Milwaukee!” We had a giggle.

There were a couple little moments like that in the movie, where we were surprised by what the characters knew/didn’t know. Like when No. 2 got sick and Church found a tick on her neck, but didn’t know what it was. Huh? You’ve lived most of your life out of doors and you don’t know what a deer tick looks like? Exposition City, right there.

Anyway, we both enjoyed it and it was lovely that they went out of the way to look at something that’s one of the less well-known aspects of the West. When you think of westward expansion, you don’t necessarily think immediately of all the Chinese girls that were basically sold as real-life sex dolls.

Didn’t Print say something to Nola about his having as much chance of getting something done (like getting married or living with another woman) as he did of being King of Siam? Something like that. I’m pretty sure he knew all the Asians were from China.

Thanks. I missed that, and can see how that makes sense. Nice touch.

Yeah, I’d love to see a sequel. I think the subject is fascinating, how people from other cultures adapt to the US. There’s a novelization of the movie available; I think I’ll order it.