While Westerns are not a new genre Broken Trail touches on grounds many leave behind. In this four hour (2 part) original movie fans of the old west should find themselves hooked. Night one sets the tone. In 1897 Tom Hart (Thomas Haden Church) is notified that his mother has passes away by his Uncle Print Ritter (Robert Duvall) who he hasn’t seen in years. Tom finds out that she has left the ranch, land, and livestock to Print due to the fact that Tom left when he was young to make his own life. Print wants to try and make things right though. He offers Tom a chance to make the money he needs to buy his own land if he helps drive a herd of horses to Wyoming. Tom decides to take his chance.
Meanwhile a man named Fender has been sent to pick up five Chinese women that have been sold off by their families into a life of prostitution. Sun Foy, Mai Ling, Ghee Moon, Ye Fung, and Ging Wa speak no English and are unsure of their fate; however they are able to put together that Fender is not a man you would want to be around. As Fender and girls in tow head back to Big Rump Kate (the woman who bought the girls) he crosses Tom and Print’s path. Offering to share their camp with Fender Print and Tom notice how he mistreats the girls.
After a night of drinking they awake to discover their money, several horses, and one of the girls is missing along with Fender. Tom quickly tracks him down and regains their items. Now Tom and Print must decide what to do with the girls.
Night two leads into how the men relate to the women and show that not everyone is out to hurt them. They also gain a few new people to their group. Besides the difficulty with the language barrier it appears Big Kate wants her property back and has sent a man named Big Ears Bywaters to track them down and kill anyone that stands in his way. Print and Tom though have grown an attachment to the women and are more determined then ever to ensure that they will have a chance at a good life.
When I first started watching I thought that I would have a very hard time believing that Thomas Haden Church was a cowboy; but within 10 minutes that was not even a memory in my mind. I have always had a soft spot for westerns and while this one can not be compared to a John Wayne film I think that it still has something that people can appreciate. The subject matter of the selling of Chinese women into a life of slavery is one that is not touched on much; but it did happen and this movie captures the ugly nature of it. Even though this is a TV movie they do not shy away from things like rape, hangings, shootings, and other crimes that happened in this time. They manage not to show anything in great detail; but the impact of it still remains.
The acting is above what I was expecting. Gwendoline Yeo, Caroline Chan, Jadyn Wong, Olivia Cheng, and Valerie Tian are superb as the five women. Throughout the movie that speak no English and their dialog is subtitled; but the emotions that they portray crosses over language barriers. Robert Duvall gives his typical performance which is good as usual. I was even impressed by the minor characters in the movie.
Over all I found this to be thoroughly enjoyable. I think that it has something for everyone. You have the old fashion shootouts, riding horses, fights, etc. for the men. Then you have the sympathetic, tragic, mild romance, etc for the women. There are also beautiful shots of the land that they are traveling as well as gorgeous horses. I would strongly encourage anyone that has a passion for the west to tune in on Sunday night because I have a feeling you will not want to miss Monday either.