"Directed by Simon Wincer (LONESOME DOVE, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER, CROSSFIRE TRAIL, INTO THE WEST), MONTE WALSH, which won the 2004 Bronze Wrangler Award for Outstanding Television Feature Film, didn't even register as a faint blip on my radar when it was first released. I'm glad that I've since come across it.
Tom Selleck, in the title role, is an aging cowboy at the turn of the 19th century. Arriving back in town after wintering on the range minding a cattle herd, Monte and his trail pardner, Chet Rollins (Keith Carradine), learn that the hard season has broken the backs of the local ranch owners and their spreads are being bought up by a consortium of Eastern dudes. Jobs are scarce, but Walsh and Rollins are hired by Cal Brennan (William Devane), a former owner now managing the consortium's local holding. Cowboys are a dying breed and, as Monte and Chet soon discover, times only get tougher as even the distant bosses can't show a profit.
Ostensibly in Wyoming but actually filmed in the gorgeous Canadian Rockies, MONTE WALSH is a bittersweet tale of a man, supremely talented in a very narrow niche, finding himself outliving his best friend (Chet), his long-time lover, the aging saloon whore "Countess" Martine (Isabella Rossellini), and his own ability to earn a living in the only craft he's ever known.
Except for Selleck, Carradine, and Devane, the film is populated by actors that you may not recognize, though it's good to see again Barry Corbin (Deputy Roscoe Brown in LONESOME DOVE) as Bob the Storekeeper and William Sanderson (Lippy in LONESOME DOVE, E.B Farnum in DEADWOOD, and Larry of NEWHART) as the odiferous ranch cook, Skimpy.
Perhaps the most poignant and tragic scene involves a cowboy nicknamed "Fightin' Joe Hooker" (James Gammon), who, at the end of his career, is relegated to "riding fence", i.e. stringing barbed wire to a line of fence posts stretching endlessly across the landscape - the most hated of ranch jobs. Joe got his moniker from having ridden alongside the real General "Fightin' Joe" Hooker at the Battle of Missionary Ridge back in '64. Now, his spirit crushed by age and lack of prospects, Joe deliberately races his mount over a precipice to their deaths. Only after his demise do the other ranch hands, while going though his meager belongings, learn that his real name was simply Albert Miller.
MONTE WALSH isn't a great film, but I enjoyed it immensely for its perspicacity regarding the end of an era in general, and the challenge confronting the individual at life's useful end in particular. At some point, I suspect, we're all faced with "riding fence". "
More of a portrait, less of a traditional movie
DWD | Indianapolis, IN | 10/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is not a plot-driven movie so much as it is a portrait of that moment in time when the Old West was disappearing and the men who made the Old West what it was had to adjust, die or just fade away.
It is beautifully shot and there is a lot of attention to detail. If one is looking for a ton of action, this is not the western you are looking for. But, if you love cowboy movies this one is a real treat. It would make the watcher wistful for those days when the horse ruled the west, except that you know that Monte Walsh would have none of that pointless sentiment.
No living actor looks more like a cowboy should than Tom Selleck and I'd be thrilled if he focused on those movies for the rest of his career."
A GREAT WESTERN THAT REQUIRES THOUGHT
Joseph Haschka | 08/28/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not since Will Penny starring Charlton Heston has there been a western that defies the stereotypes and presents a story that requires some thought--real thought. The thinking person's western doesn't get a lot of attention but when it does...well, Monte Walsh with Tom Selleck is all the evidence that you need.Don't get me wrong, I love a good, classic, predictable western as much as the next armchair cowboy. But Monte Walsh, and, especially Tom Selleck in the role, is a breath of fresh air. It's too bad that Mr. Selleck wasted all that time on Magnum PI (okay, I loved that too) when he should have been defining the new western hero as he has done with Quigley Down Under, Crossfire Trail and, now, Monte Walsh.Along with Selleck, great performances by Isabella Rosselini, Keith Carradine, William Devane, Robert Carradine, George Eads, and Marshall Teague assure us that, whether it is on the silver screen or on the open plains of Wyoming or Montana, the Cowboy Spirit rides on."
This IS the America I know and love...
Kelly K. Dunn | the Heartland of the United States of America | 08/20/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Monte Walsh is a welcomed reminder that this country really did have men with fortitude and integrity. The story of course is a tragedy in the sense that an era was coming to an unfortunate end. This movie is well done and superbly acted. The Western is NOT dead - neither is the American ideal of pride in one's work, loyalty towards one's friends, and compromise is NOT worth ANY price."
Truly an enjoyable and decent fine movie!
Joe | N.W. USA | 09/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Such a rarity to see a story told with with respect. It was a joy viewing this movie and not having your intelligence or heritage insulted, with insane anti-Western P.C. foul scenes and lines added, for no reason other than for Bolshevik anti-Western reasons.. This movie was worth every one of my hard earned dollars I spent on it. I do not have cable because of what is on it to me is so sophomoric,and in my opinion is damaging to family and Western Cilvilization. I want to thank Tom Selleck for telling a story that entertained, and also caused one to ponder lifes serious side too, yet had some laughs and smiles, that is so needed in these times. No I am not connected to this movie or the movie business in any way, these are my honest opinions, but if your like me and only buy a very few movies in year, and hate being ripped off, here is a DVD movie you will feel good about and reflective about the story too, this one is worth the purchase. Tom Selleck also did this movie out his own pocket too, from what I read. He is a good man.. Enjoy this one friends.."