Righteous Blood revolves around Jericho (Michael Paré, The Penthouse, Painkiller), a killer for hire in the Old West. After a shootout in the wilderness his horse runs off and his companion Stewart (Dan Bernstein) decides this isn’t the life for him. This leaves Jericho stranded and alone in the forest. Even worse a shitty pop song starts playing on the soundtrack.
Wandering through the woods he runs into Padre (Joseph Camilleri, The Bumbry Encounter) who saves him from a bounty hunter despite knowing who and what he is. He also claims to have cured him of his evil ways. He makes his way to the town where he answers Mrs. Boswell’s (Alexandra Amarell) ad for a hired gun. But he suddenly develops a conscience when he finds out the victim is a mentally handicapped boy (Gordon Rocks).
Director Rene Perez (Legend of Hawes, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood) and co-writer Kent Hill (The Vampire and the Vigilante) have found a way to make Perez’s previous films look good. Instead of a half-assed action film, Righteous Blood is a heavy-handed, talky morality play trying to pass itself off as an action film.
The trailer for Righteous Blood promises shootouts and western action. What we get is lots of shots of Jericho wandering around with The Boy, (that’s how he’s referred to in the credits, he does get dubbed Elijah in the film’s closing minutes), and a subplot about Charlotte (Emily Whitcomb, Darkness Waits) whose husband Bo (Eric David Tippett, Guitar Man) is divorcing her because she can’t have children. And he’s hot for somebody else.
A hired killer who ends up playing babysitter is the plot of one of the best action films ever, Léon: The Professional. Unfortunately, the folk who made Righteous Blood have neither the talent nor the balls to make a film like that. Instead, we get Padre showing up to give us frequent lectures on good, evil, and God’s will. And when other killers come looking for Jericho they are, of course, even worse than him. Which lets him show up just in time to save Charlotte from one of them who intends to rape her. And he doesn’t care if she’s dead or alive, her corpse will stay warm long enough for his purposes.
About the only thing stopping me from calling Righteous Blood a faith-based Western is Whitcomb’s topless scene. Its plot revolves around a sinner’s redemption through Jesus and the love of a good woman and its constant preaching makes it feel like one. The story with The Boy certainly feels like an anti-abortion, pro-adoption message. This sounds nice until you realize how many kids grow up in state care or shitty foster homes because nobody will adopt them.
As an action film, Righteous Blood is dismal. There’s a weak shootout at the beginning, and a shooting in the middle. The final showdown is laughable with Jericho standing in the open without getting hit while he drops men on horseback and behind trees. I guess Jesus was watching out for him. But not for us as we still have several sappy scenes that don’t flow together but feel tacked on at the last minute to sit through before the film finally ends.
If you’re looking for a religious Western then Righteous Blood will probably make you happy, give or take the bare skin. If you’re looking for a more typical Western, or one of the blood and boob filled films the director usually makes, avoid it at all costs.
Righteous Blood is available to stream and on DVD from Archstone Distribution. You can check the production company’s website for more information.