Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Steve Miner|
|Produced by||Frank Price|
|Screenplay by||Scott Busby|
|Based on||Taming the Nueces Strip: The Story of McNelly's Ranger|
by George Durham
|Music by||Trevor Rabin|
|Edited by||Gregg Featherman|
Peter Devaney Flanagan
|Distributed by||Dimension Films|
Texas Rangers is a 2001 American action western film directed by Steve Miner and starring James Van Der Beek, Ashton Kutcher, Alfred Molina, and Dylan McDermott. It follows a group of Texas Rangers in the post-American Civil War era. The film is very loosely based upon the book Taming the Nueces Strip by George Durham, who based it on his own experiences serving in Captain Leander McNelly's Texas Ranger group as a young man. The film was panned by critics and was a box office bomb.
This article needs an improved plot summary. (October 2019)
Ten years after the Civil War ended, the Governor of Texas asks Leander McNelly to recommission a company of Rangers to help uphold the law along the Mexican border. Aside from a few seasoned veterans, the recruits are young men, such as George Durham, who have little or no experience with guns or policing crime. The antagonist of the story is John King Fisher who is stealing cattle from Texas cattle barons like Richard Dukes and Victor Logan and driving them into Mexico, where he sells them to the Mexican army.
After McNelly and his men pursue Fisher for a while, they fall into a trap, where many of the young and ill-trained Rangers are killed. Defeated and low on morale, the men fall back to a ranch house and attempt to set up an ambush for Fisher. After being double crossed by a woman (perhaps unwittingly), the rangers remain one step behind Fisher and his men. Two of the Rangers follow Fisher and his men to the Mexican border, where they wait for the rest of their company. Once the entire Ranger force arrives, they plan their final attack. In a final gun-slinging showdown, the Rangers face off against Fisher and his men that will tip the state of the border country in the direction of either chaos or justice.
The film's source was the book Taming of the Neuces Strip: The Story of McNelly's Rangers by George Durham.
In 1989, Frank Price at Columbia optioned a story idea called Ranger from Scott Busby and Martin Copland based on the book A Texas Ranger by N. A. Jennings. Busby and Copland were hired to do the adaptation. A year later John Milius was on the project. He wrote several drafts and was going to direct for Columbia, then Savoy Pictures.
In 1992 Milius said he hoped to make the film with a young cast for $15-17 million. Which is "very reasonable today," he said.
It's very easy to make Westerns. Most of the people making decisions today are idiots who've probably never seen one, city-born people who feel that the here and now is most important. They don't like historical films of any kind, especially Westerns. Sci-fi is acceptable but history is not hip. Part of being modern is that anything from the past is dead. We live in an historical age. An enormous amount of people were interested in TV's The Civil War and Lonesome Dove--which Hollywood writes off as the great unwashed between the coasts. We're the only culture in history that builds a shrine and prostrates before the 14-year-old.
"The best Westerns were love poems to this country," added Milius, "made by people in love with the country physically. John Ford photographed the country the way you photograph a woman. He photographed the open spaces, gray clouds, light, red earth, trees, really sensuously. The country was the repository of endless promise. Any good Western is about promise."
Milius says he "got pretty close to making" the film "but they wouldn't approve Tommy Lee Jones as the star, so I left it to go do Vikings [a film that ultimately was not made]. Another guy worked on it, the script was rewritten, but they were never able to get it made. They couldn't attract the cast they wanted. So now these other characters [Bob and Harvey Weinstein] bought it."
The film did not proceed until 1999. It was made by Miramax, who cast some young teen idols in the lead, including James Van Der Beek from Varsity Blues. Milius was replaced as director.
"It was one of my best scripts, and I wasn't willing to sit there and proceed to dismantle it," said Milius. "Youth today have a sense of rightful entitlement. Their idea of great adventure is diving off bridges with bungee cords. They don't go and do something real-they're all interested in looking good and getting that BMW."
Milius said the Weinsteins "were really arrogant. They called me up and acted as if I should feel privileged to come back and ruin my own work. I told that asshole Bob Weinstein he was lucky to have it the way it was."
The film is loosely based on the activities of Leander H. McNelly and the Special Force of the Texas Rangers, but it takes considerable liberties with the historical record (McNelly is shown dying of tuberculosis shortly after the climax of the action, when in real life he had retired from the Rangers the year before; John King Fisher was not actually killed by the Rangers, but came to an agreement with them).
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2018)
Texas Rangers was panned by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 2% based on reviews from 51 critics. The film featuring on their worst of the worst list. On Metacritic the film has a score of 29% based on 10 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
John Milius claimed that Miramax "mutilated" his script. "They don't have any sense of responsibility. They'd make a film about anything if they thought it would make some money for them. I think they should give Harvey Weinstein [president of Miramax] to the Taliban. I'd like to see him on the other side. I'd like to hunt him down in a cave."