A kinder, gentler Deadwood meets the 19th-century version of Donnie Brasco.
Baby-faced US Deputy Marshal Merlin â€œThe Bodacious Kid” Fanshaw is a modest, aw-shucks good guy who desires nothing more than to keep his town of Dry Creek, Mont., safe and crime-free. But money-grubbing evildoer George Starkweather has something else in mind. Aided by his merry band of thieves, Starkweather hits the Dry Creek Bank and wipes it out. Why wasn’t the usually sharp, competent Deputy Marshal able to quash the robbery? Well, gosh, he was out of town. Marshal Chance Ridgeway, Merlin’s immediate superior, believes that the only way to bring down Starkweather is to have his deputy join George’s gang. Merlin is happy to oblige, and thus begins a compelling game of cat-and-mouse–or cat-and-horse, as the case may be. Lynde (Marshal of Medicine Lodge, 2005, etc.) again demonstrates a firm grasp of Old West mythology. You can all but feel the Montana dust, the period vernacular feels just right–there’s much â€œreconing” and â€œobliging” going on, for instance–and the characterizations are on target, most notably that of the affable Merlin. He may be the archetypal champion of justice, but Merlin’s sense of humor, big heart and poetic bend make him more than what easily could have been a cookie-cutter Gary Cooper-esque hero. The supporting players are somewhat less interesting, most notably Starkweather, who comes across as a bit one-dimensional. The story, though, moves quickly along, and the warm and fuzzy Hollywood climax leaves plenty of room for the return of The Bodacious Kid.
A charismatic narrator, a breezy tale and a generous helping of verisimilitude raise this well above the level of the run-of-the-mill western.