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Texas Rangers Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae pursue three outlaws, Comanche war chief Buffalo Hump, Comanche horse thief Kicking Wolf and a Mexican bandit king. Now in their middle years, they also struggle with their personal lives, Gus with Clara Forsythe, the love of his life, and Call with Maggie Tilton, the young prostitute who loves him. Meanwhile their partners-in-arms Deets, Jake Spoon and Pea Eye Parker help the Rangers protect the advancing western frontier from the defiant Comanches who are determined to defend their land and way of life. Prequel to Lonesome Dove, and based upon the novel by Larry McMurty.
It's billed as "the second chapter in the Lonesome Dove saga," but Comanche Moon is actually a prequel to that much-loved 1989 miniseries. And while there's no doubt that it has some very big boots to fill, this three-part on two DVDs, including bonus features production is rarely less than eminently watchable and entertaining. Continuity is a positive factor: Larry McMurtry, who wrote the novel on which it's based, also co-wrote the screenplay, and Lonesome Dove director Simon Wincer returns as well. As for the cast, it's certainly not as star-studded as its predecessor, but Steve Zahn as Gus McCrae, Karl Urban Woodrow Call, Linda Cardellini Clara Allen, and the others manage to suggest the characterizations brought to the screen by Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, and Anjelica Huston, respectively, without mimicking them. Of course, there are new faces on hand as well, principally Val Kilmer looking a mite chubby, perhaps due to all the scenery he chews in his portrayal of Texas Rangers Captain Inish Scull and Rachel Griffiths as Scull's horny wife.
As the tale begins in 1858, Call and McCrae, some years away from becoming the cattlemen depicted in Lonesome Dove, are Rangers serving under the educated and eccentric Scull as they work to protect the territory against marauding Comanches, led by the stern, vengeful Buffalo Hump Wes Studi and his crazed son, Blue Duck Adam Beach. When Scull's horse is stolen by one of the Indians, he sets out to retrieve the beast, promoting both Call and McRae to Captain, and the rest of the story revolves primarily around them; in fact, although there's a reasonable amount of action including the Comanche raid on Austin that opens Part Two, Comanche Moon is much less plot-dependent than character-driven, and it is Call tough, taciturn, and totally clueless when it comes to the fair sex and best friend McRae an open-hearted, self-described jester who are the most engaging of the bunch as they navigate the deep waters of their work and love lives McRae with Clara and Call with the prostitute Maggie Tilton, played by Elizabeth Banks. McMurtry and co-writer Diana Ossana's dialogue manages to be at once plain and poetic, colorful and poignant, and regardless of what's actually happening onscreen, the miniseries has a light, often whimsical charm that separates it from most Westerns made for big and small screen alike. Extras include a "making of" featurette and more. --Sam Graham