Broken Trail

  • Review Date: March 25, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 184 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Lauded miniseries doesn't glamorize the old West.
  • Review Date: March 25, 2007
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 184 minutes

Age(i)

2
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4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
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15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Respect and equality are a theme in this film.

Positive role models

Robert Duvall's character is almost too good and modern in his
attitudes to be true, as he treats the Chinese in gentlemanly fashion
and shoots a couple of men on sight just because they're notorious
Native American killers. Though he claims to have given up on happiness
with females, he's still chivalrous when it counts. The other men in
his posse follow in line.

Violence

Men and horses shot down. One man hung (off-camera). Men and women are brutally beaten. Cattle branding in closeup. A woman is trampled by stampeding horses.

Sex

Prostitution and sexual slavery as a business is a major part of the plot. Besides talk of venereal disease, there are some bosom-bulging tight corsets and brief nudity (not in a typical sexual context, but young Chinese women are inspected by a would-be buyer).

Language

"S--t" is as severe as it gets.

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drunken cowboys, in and out of saloons, though some of the imbibing is friendly and social.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that much of the plot concerns prostitution and sexual slavery as a business. Besides talk of venereal disease, there are some bosom-bulging tight corsets and brief nudity glimpsed in a group of young Chinese women as they are being inspected by a seedy client. It is never made glamorous, though. Neither is the depiction of life in the old West. It's shown as rough and often violent -- where a lame horse is summarily shot in the head, not taken to a vet.

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What's the story?

On a journey to sell horses, Prentice Ritter (Robert Duvall) and his nephew Tom (Thomas Haden Church) encounter a wagonload of Chinese girls who will be sold by their abusive, drunken guardian into prostitution. When the man robs the Ritters, Tom tracks him down and hangs him. Prentice promises to protect the terrified women, and the group sets out on a long overland trek. As they journey through Idaho, they meet with tragedy and gather a few additional wayfarers, including a fiddle-player descended from an aristocratic East-coast household, and an English-speaking Chinese man they hire as a translator for the girls. The last person to join their entourage is wife-turned-prostitute Nola (Greta Scacchi) who happens to be fleeing from the same brothel the Chinese girls were destined for, and her murderous outlaw ex-lover is in pursuit with his gang.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Director Walter Hill takes the Western milieu seriously, seldom sugar-coating or sentimentalizing the bitterness of life on the trail. Instead of a pretty boy, the role of Tom Ritter went to Church, who looks like he was carved from a block of knotty pine.

Broken Trail sheds light on the little-regarded presence of early Chinese immigrants in the American West. The elder Ritter's equanimity toward all races and genders seems a little more like something from the modern era. In lengthy dialogue interludes in the second half of this saga, Prentice explains how his unlucky-in-love personal life has deepened his character (he doesn't understand any women). Kids hoping for more action might get a little restless during these introspective moments.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the authenticity of the old West setting. As opposed to more lighthearted "oaters" like old-time singing-cowboy movies, The Wild, Wild West or Jackie Chan in Shanghai Noon, there is mud and dirt on this trail, a horse that develops leg trouble is shot to death, and when gun battles begin the Chinese characters duck and cover -- rather than bust out into kung fu. Do your kids prefer this vision of the West, or Hollywood's standard fantasies? While this is one Western that gives due credit to the large numbers of Chinese settlers in pioneer America, you might mention that blacks (not very visible here) also comprised up to a quarter of all working cowboys. One of the girls in this movie is subjected to the practice of footbinding, which could open up discussions about the devaluation and exploitation of women across cultures.

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 24, 2006
DVD release date:September 5, 2006
Cast:Greta Scacchi, Robert Duvall, Thomas Haden Church
Director:Walter Hill
Studio:Sony Pictures
Genre:Drama
Run time:184 minutes
MPAA rating:NR
MPAA explanation:not rated

This review of Broken Trail was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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