In the Old West, conflict was clear and unambiguous. It was the good guys versus the bad guys. But in the New West, things just ain't that simple. Director Frank Perry stages a pleasant comeback with this comedy after last year's mediocre Man in the Swing. Working from a witty script by Thomas McGuane (one of America's brightest young writers), he has come up with a funny movie that is rich in characterization and mildly satirical.
Jeff Bridges and his Indian friend Sam Waterston are two present-day vagabonds who rustle cattle and sell the meat whenever they need money. The Montana Ranch owned by Clifton James is an obnoxious target since he's the richest man around. Everything is just fine for the two lads until their deeds are discovered by Harry Dean Stanton and Richard Bright, two of James' ranch hands. They want a piece of the action.
There are some delightfully offbeat characters here: Slim Pickens as a wily, infirm cattle detective; Charlene Dallas as his supposed niece (she feigns a Goody-Two-Shoes attitude but in reality is a drinker and double-dealer); and Elizabeth Ashley as the rich rancher's sex-starved wife who longs for "some desire under the elms." Our two anti-heroes have their day in the sun after successfully pulling off a kidnapping and ransom for one of James's prize bulls, but trouble is just around the bend.
Jeff Bridges is energetic and affable while his buddy Sam Waterson provides a stolid counterpoint. There are plenty of chuckles to be had in Rancho Deluxe. When the bullets whine and the wind sings in this movie, it's nothing like the Old West. But then, that's the point of this entertaining story.