Picks and Pans Review: Streets of Laredo
Saddle up, boys and girls. It's time for the final odyssey of Woodrow Call, the taciturn hero of TV's epic western miniseries Lonesome Dove. Aging and more obdurate than ever, Woodrow (James Garner) is a retired Texas Ranger still available as a bounty hunter. He is hired by the railroad to hunt a vicious Mexican bandit (Alexis Cruz) who has been ambushing trains.
Garner and Call make a logical marriage—one of TV's favorite actors interpreting one of the medium's best roles. And Garner is hypnotic, even without the stoic flintiness that Tommy Lee Jones brought to Call in the 1989 original and that Jon Voight brought to the 1993 sequel Return to Lonesome Dove. The best acting in this two-parter, however, comes from Sam Shepard, who is poignantly evocative as Call's helper Pea Eye Parker, a simple cowboy who comes to marriage and fatherhood late in life and finds himself overwhelmed by his family's hold on his heart.
The story is crammed with author Larry McMurtry's usual buckboard full of rich characters, among them Randy Quaid as the remorseless pistolero John Wesley Hardin. The one weakness—a significant one—is Cruz. With his shoulder-length straw locks and vacant look, he makes a disappointing villain.
Streets of Laredo is grimmer, darker and more violent than Lonesome Dove. Though still engaging, this yarn (ending Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET) lacks the cohesiveness, resonance and sheer poetic splendor of the original.