Horse Manure

Nothing about The Cowboy Way reaches beyond comfortable, easy buddy comedy. For this movie, that feels right.

Keifer Sutherland and Woody Harrelson have a ball playing two cowboys who hardly ever remove their hats, change their clothes, or take in New York’s luxury. They do share a fine meal – oblivious to the hotel’s prominence – but never ditch their battered truck, unless it’s in trade for a horse.

It’s simple humor, but in reverse to an extent. Usually, city types end up dumped onto a ranch, reacting to cows and chickens. That character arc is routine and familiar. Cowboy Way moves from New Mexico’s rodeos to taxis, and there’s no movement in Sutherland or Harrelson. Partly, that’s the joke: They don’t need to change because New York is already full of oddballs, outsiders, and personalities.

Cowboy Way is stupidly inspiring for how well everyone gets along

Sure, they act outlandishly, but not necessarily as fish-out-of-water. They’re an adaptable duo, and the city forms around them as they hunt for human traffickers who took their friend’s daughter – an aimless ‘90s action/adventure scenario, brought to life thanks to this cast. Dylan McDermott isn’t much as the villain, but Ernie Hudson’s playful street cop takes the best lines for himself. In setting up a horses-versus-subway chase climax, the starring duo asks how to head the engine off. Hudson lets loose with Cowboy Way’s winning moment: “Head it off? It’s a fucking train!”

Substantially ludicrous, if proud of it, the ending action plays on the theme, making Sutherland and Harrelson rejoin as friends, while literally pitting city and range life against one another. Cowboy Way is stupidly inspiring for how well everyone gets along, flinching at some brief homophobia aside. That’s not so much on the script as it is showing there remain barriers in what Harrelson’s character will socially accept. Moments later, he’s stripping on stage with underwear models. He’ll make due.

Cowboy Way offers plenty of ridiculous western justice as it goes too. Ramming a pickup truck through a nightclub and finishing off the villain via hilariously cruel roping only happen after trying to do things legitimately. They give modern living a chance, and when that fails, start brawling. Writing The Cowboy Way as two ranchers destroying everything to reach their goal is the easy out. Instead, Cowboy Way avoids those shortcuts, and gives this pair an enjoyable base to start from.

Video

Remember the dark days of Universal’s catalog Blu-rays? Well, they still exist because Mill Creek licensed one of those transfers for Cowboy Way. This is a mess, imagery destroyed by heavy edge enhancement. Grain turns into massive chunks, unnaturally thick, and more akin to the DVD era. If this were struck for HD, then it was early in the process and untouched since.

Contrast boosting impacts both ends, leading to heavy clipping in the contrast and a total disaster in shadows. Opening scenes crush detail to such extremes, it looks like floating heads wandering around the screen. This never lets up and other than sequences shot in strong light, impacts nearly every frame. A bar visit is so dark, it’s difficult to even follow the action. Entire shots goes unseen as darkness wipes out visibility.

Top that off with lackluster color reproduction, drained of energy. Flat primaries take life from the various ranches and open lands, cinematography wasted in a presentation like this. Flesh tones dry out alongside the rest.

Audio

A spacious 5.1 soundstage invigorates arenas as crowds cheer and PA men call out results. Ambiance inside sweatshops keep sewing machines active in each channel. New York’s bluster opens up, sending car horns outward whenever streetside. Elevated trains rush through stereos, and when bars/clubs host the story, the enveloping effect proves convincing.

Soundtrack selections bring material for the subwoofer. Truck engines power things too. It’s nothing spectacular, but enough to drive a slight rumble. Shotgun blasts make a point of things though, each shot hearty and bold. Age leaves the jolts slightly loosened, if still hefty.

Extras

Nothing.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Cowboy Way
  • Video
  • Audio
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4

Movie

While routine in its buddy comedy and action, The Cowboy Way entertains because it’s willing to restrain itself until the end.

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