Westerns seem to be popping up all over the DTV and VOD markets in the last year or so. From Hell on the Border and Righteous Blood and the upcoming Apache Junction to western/horror hybrids like The Pale Door and Skinwalker, it seems the Old West is new again. Catch the Bullet is a new one written by Jerry Robbins and directed by Michael Feifer (Ed Gein: The Butcher of Plainfield, Last Shoot Out). Should you catch it? Or dodge a bullet and watch something else?
Marshal Britt MacMaster, played by the late Jay Pickett and to whom the film is dedicated, has just gunned down a bank robber and his two accomplices. For the three months it took to track them, his father (Tom Skerritt, Alien, The Dead Zone) is watching his twelve-year-old son Chad (Mason McNulty, Assimilate, VHYes).
When he finally returns he finds his father wounded and his son missing courtesy of Jed Miller (Gattlin Griffith, Initiation, Blood Done Signed My Name) and his gang. Teaming up with Tucker (Callder Griffith, Gattlin’s brother) a green deputy who hates all “Injuns” and a Pawnee tracker named Chaska (Cody Jones, The Buffalo Soldiers, an American Legacy) he heads back out on the trail. And this time it’s personal.
Not more than five minutes in I had my first indication Catch the Bullet was going to be a disappointment. When MacMaster faces off against the trio of outlaws one draws, gets shot, then the second takes his turn rather than attacking together. The third isn’t armed so we get a diving for a dropped gun scene as well. Not the most exciting of starts.
The characters are all familiar cliches, the hard-as-nails Marshal, the greenhorn out to prove himself, the Native tracker. The villain, Miller is so evil he has no problem shooting Chad’s friend in cold blood. Of course, he and his men have just broken out of the jail MacMaster put them in. And just to up the stakes, the Sioux are on the warpath leaving a trail of dead settlers in their wake. At least it’s a change from the Apaches.
Catch the Bullet’s plot is just as familiar as the characters in it and it plays out just as predictably. There are no surprises or a sense of danger and you can frequently tell not only what’s going to happen next, but what will happen after that. From Chad’s escape attempts to the Sioux turning up at the worst possible times.
It’s not that Catch the Bullet is bad, it isn’t. It’s just extremely predictable and directed without any flair or hint of interest in what’s happening. It’s like one of those programer Westerns the studios cranked out in the fifties and used to run on late-night TV. A couple of familiar names and a recycled storyline shot fast and cheap by a director who specialized in fast, cheap, and just good enough, not in quality. I’m not saying that Michael Feifer specializes in fast, cheap and just good enough, but he’s directed seventy-one films in sixteen years, many of them for Lifetime.
For those of you thinking of watching Catch the Bullet for either of its name players, Tom Skerritt has maybe ten minutes of screen time. Peter Facinelli (Twilight, Supergirl) plays the sheriff and has maybe half that.
If you simply want a Western that’s just good enough that it doesn’t actually suck, Catch the Bullet will do the job. If you want something you haven’t seen a hundred times before and/or is actually good you may want to think twice. Even a relatively obscure Spaghetti Western like Fulci’s Massacre Time or My Name is Pecos would be a better choice.
Lionsgate will release Catch the Bullet on its Grindstone label in select theatres, on digital and VOD today, September 10th. DVD and Blu Rays will be available on September 14th. You can check Lionsgate’s website for more information. The film does have an official Facebook page, but all it has is three posts of the Lionsgate logo.