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Picks and Pans Review: Frank and Jesse

updated 04/24/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/24/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat, April 22, 8 p.m. ET)

C

Rob Lowe and Bill Paxton star in this erratic, romanticized ode to the outlaw brothers. The James boys weren't criminals, you see; they were victims, Confederate veterans who tried to lead lives of honest labor on their Missouri homestead. But after their father was gunned down and their house torched by a vicious mercenary for a Chicago railroad concern, Frank and Jesse had no choice but to rob every bank and train for 1,000 miles.

The movie's tone is jagged. It begins with mythopoetic grandeur, veers precipitously toward frivolous buffoonery and makes a late, vacuous stab at haunted fatalism. At least the rhythm stays consistent: grim action scenes alternate with dull passages of stilted exposition. Country star Randy Travis gives a wonderfully lugubrious performance as Cole Younger.

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