A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Warrant is a 2020 Western in which a Missouri sheriff and his son must track down a man who served with the sheriff in the Civil War who's now a dangerous outlaw. Expect some war and Western-style violence. Characters shot and killed, some blood. War scenes show soldiers killed, cannon fire, and musket shots. Characters fight each other with rifles. One of the characters uses brass knuckles. Character knocked out with a fencepost. Character shown with a rope around his neck, on the verge of getting hanged. Some pipe and cigar smoking.
What's the story?
In THE WARRANT, John Breaker (Neal McDonough) is a sheriff in Linn County, Missouri, circa 1869. Virgil St. Denis (Casper Van Dien), aka "The Saint," was a solider who served under Breaker during the Civil War who's now a leader of a gang of bandits determined to disrupt the Union Army's supply lines going from the North to the South for the purposes of Reconstruction. With a $10,000 bounty on The Saint's head, desperate vigilantes, trying to feed their families during this difficult time, are trying to take the law into their own hands and catch The Saint. John's son Cal, now an officer stationed in Washington DC, has arrived in Linn County to inform his dad of The Saint's whereabouts, and that if The Saint isn't stopped, he and his gang might restart the Civil War. Reunited, John and Cal ride off in search of The Saint's lair, stop him and his gang, and bring him to justice.
Is it any good?
This low-budget Western is a sanitized exploration of the classic Western themes of heroism and good versus evil. In other words, it's more Gunsmoke than Deadwood. While there's some attempt to present character backstory to add more depth than "white cowboy hat against black cowboy hat," there isn't enough there to create memorable characters. The secondary characters, the other members of the gang looking to reignite the Civil War, are drawn with as much depth as the one thing that might distinguish them from the others. One guy uses brass knuckles, for instance, and another guy plays guitar.
The plot twists aren't exactly surprising, but maybe that's just as well. For fans of the classic Western, this is probably as good as the average Western from the 1950s. The lines between good and bad are more starkly drawn than, say, the spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, and everything that came after. There are none of the gray areas that have so muddied the waters between the two sides so common to movies and television in recent decades. That said, there's a nagging feeling to The Warrant that you can't go home again. Audiences expect more from their entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Westerns. What are the conventions of Westerns, and how does this movie compare to other Westerns you've seen? Why do you think there's an enduring appeal to this genre?
How did the movie convey Civil War battles? Did it seem realistic? Why or why not?
How does The Warrant try to convey deeper themes and messages, particularly with the title?
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