Many may not know it, but country music star Trace Adkins has been making a name for himself in the direct-to-video western market.
Yes, there is such a thing.
With oaters like “Traded” and “The Virginian” under his belt, Adkins takes on the lead role in another low-fi western with “Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story.”
The western follows a reformed stagecoach robber (Adkins) who is reminded of his past in the form of a U.S. Marshal named Calhoun (Kim Coates). It’s the story we’ve seen a million times before. A dangerous man moves on from his past, but his old actions comes back to haunt him.
It’s not that this tired theme can’t work again.
“John Wick” and “In a Valley of Violence” are sly twists on the old “dangerous man trying to be peaceful” trope. “Stagecoach” doesn’t have the patience or ambition of those movies, though. Instead, we get everything we’ve seen before in exactly the same way.
FAST FACT: Trace Adkins accidentally cut the pinky finger of his left hand off as a young man. Doctors were able to sew it back on, but it left him unable to play certain notes on his guitar.
“Stagecoach” never sets its sights high enough to be a disappointment. It’s a VOD western starring a country music star, and that’s just about everything you need to know right there.
Adkins isn’t much of an actor, but he looks appropriate set against the backdrop of horses, valleys, and gun smoke. He has a commanding presence, which is about the best most country music stars can hope for when shifting to acting careers.
Other notable actors like Coates and Judd Nelson do the best with what they got. It’s simply doesn’t require the kind of impressive work those two have done in more daring material.
As a low-budget western, there was a chance “Stagecoach” could have worked, even drawing within already established lines. This year’s “Forsaken” packed a conviction to its central, familiar theme. The interplay between Kiefer and Donald Sutherland elevated the material to a respectable tip of the hat to the genre.
Then there was “In a Valley of Violence,” starring Ethan Hawke and John Travolta. While the movie shot for something far more original and modern than this Adkins romp, it was still proof a western could do a whole lot with very little.
If you’re an Adkins fan, there’s no reason you won’t enjoy the singer donning a cowboy hat and running around with a six shooter. And if you’re absolutely desperate for a quick hit of western imagery and cliches, then there’s little reason this isn’t a fine 90 minute addition to your night.
Just don’t forget the beers.
“Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story [Blu-ray]” includes a lonely special feature. It doesn’t feature a corny Adkins music video inspired by the movie, which was quite a disappointment to this critic.
Musicians turning to acting should take a note from Will Smith’s playbook -- when the material ain’t there, just start dancing and singing. Case in point: I will never watch “Wild Wild West” again, but I do love that catchy Smith tune.