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The Jack Bull
USA, 1999
[John Badham]
John Cusack, L.Q. Jones, John C. McGinley, John Goodman, Miranda Otto
Action / Western
A real Cusack family vehicle this one with father Dick writing the story, John starring and old friend Steve Pink producing. It's a made-for-TV movie but don't let that put you off as it's first and foremost a very polished western with an excellent cast, including John Goodman, John C. McGinlay and Miranda Otto, and a top-notch directer in John Badham (Saturday Night Fever, Wargames). John Cusack is Myrl Redding, a newly arrived but decent, hard-working and well respected horse trader living in Rawlins, Wyoming.

When the local land owner and bully Henry Ballard (Jones) starts throwing his weight around Redding decides through sheer pigheadedness to support a petition to make Wyoming a state of the US, something Ballard disapproves of, and publicly in order to embarrases him. Things get ugly when Redding is charged a large sum to cross Ballard's land and the horses he uses as collateral are abused and his man beaten. Unable to get the law to intervene in Rawlins his wife travels to the capital Cherokee in order to see the Attorney General. While she is there Ballard's men pick a fight and inadvertantly cause her death, an act which causes her husband to form a posse to hunt Ballard down. The film is cut into three pieces, with the buildup to Redding's wife's death followed by the posse's attempt to hunt him down and finished off with the trial of both men on seperate charges.

Cusack is fantastic as always and gets across superbly his character's will and sense of justice and his unrelenting demand for vengeance, albeit without bloodshed, when he is wronged. Most of the supporting actors are equally well-rounded and given much to do in a script peppered with strong-willed people and a situation which quickly spirals out of control, forcing the Governer and Army to intervene to stop Cusack and his gang. The politicking which forces the guilty but decent Cusack to stand trial as well is nicely developed throughout the course of the film and the ending, with John Goodman as the presiding judge, is masterfully handled and leaves you feeling good about yourself that people like this exist. It's also mercifully short in order to avoid it becoming another courtroom-style movie so beloved of Hollywood these days. The ending is something of a surprise and though not all the baddies are punished and some of the good guys wind up dead, justice does appear to have been done.
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