The western or “oaters,” as they were affectionately known back in the day, were one of the first film genres in early Hollywood and had a long run as the premier genre. Television saw growth through shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and Wagon Train, launching many careers in front and behind the camera. Director Brent Christy’s The Warrant: Breaker’s Law, written by Shea Sizemore, fits right in as an homage to the classics of the past thanks to its story, ambiance, and characters. After the opening credits, you get the feeling of a B-movie, but in the classic sense, as all the archetypes are here and work for the story being told.
In the opening shots, lawman John Breaker (Neal McDonough) strides down the dusty street. He is searching for the one-eyed, rough-looking Deadeye (Dermott Mulroney) to bring to justice. He is aided by First Nations companion Bugle Bearclaw (Gregory Cruz). Yes, this may seem like a stereotype, but that is shed as the story progresses. Breaker and Bearclaw have some of the best dialogue together, talking about the women of their past and the life they had before they met, similar to the bouncy deadpan words between Butch and Sundance.
“…searching for the one-eyed, rough-looking Deadeye…”
The premise of The Warrant: Breaker’s Law is a simple action-packed one about returning criminal Deadeye to trial and justice, yet the story takes twists and turns in the classic tradition with lots of references to the past of Western films in both North America and other countries. Breaker’s depth of his feelings towards the killing he must do in his job builds his boundaries on law, order, and doing the right thing. He carries a small wooden carving of a horse that he was going to give to his son, reminiscent of the Knight piece that was the symbol of Richard Boone’s Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel. There is even a reference to a gang leader “Yul Bronson.” The plot twists in this range from interesting to revisionist. But it all makes sense to these people and what they are going through.
The cast is lots of fun as well. McDonough is appropriately steely-eyed. Mulroney is one tough cookie. Bruce Boxleitner has some lovely dialogue about what it means to be a father before a big gun battle. Nick Searcy also adds some layers with his Colonel Dredge, a cranky figure who thinks Breaker is headed into a worthless fight. Amy Hargreaves has a bit part and nails it.
The Warrant: Breaker’s Law is a refreshing look at what the western was like back when it was the go-to genre. The cast is terrific and suits their roles well. The action is coupled with choice dialogue so as not to overpower the moments of humanity. The end credits finish this love letter by looking like the opening of Bonanza and with just a hint of epic music that will be recognizable to any fan of the Wild West. This is well worth the time to head down its dusty trail.
"…Fits right into an homage to those Westerns of the past with a story, the ambiance, and the characters."