Blu-ray Review: Rancho Deluxe | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 17th, 2022  

Rancho Deluxe

Studio: Fun City Editions

Aug 12, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Jack (Jeff Bridges) and Cecil (Sam Waterston) are your average, minor league cattle rustlers, paying their rent one stolen side of beef at a time. When a local steer magnate buys up the last of the independent ranches, he turns his attention to hunting down the criminals who have been shallowly cutting into his profit margins. As he brings in professional help in the form of an over-the-hill private investigator, two of his own employees (Harry Dean Stanton and Richard Bright) approach the robber plainsmen with an idea for an inside job that could make all four of them relatively wealthy. This is the latest release from Fun City Editions, a label sure to zig just when you expect them to zag. They’ve followed up the violent, urban revenge thriller Walking the Edge with one of the most pastoral, panoramic, and laid-back caper comedies you’ll come across. An atypically light-hearted entry in the filmography of director Frank Perry (Diary of a Mad Housewife, David and Lisa), it was filmed from a screenplay by Ninety-Two in the Shade author Thomas McGuane.
If there’s any one word to describe the feel of Rancho Deluxe (1975), it’s “casual”—which was probably to be expected from any film with original music provided by Jimmy Buffett. Jack and Cecil are loveable ne’er-do-wells rather than hardened criminals, resorting to mischief as a means of supporting a lifestyle that seems to revolve around nothing more than smoking weed and chasing tail. Even with a massive payout on the line, the boys seem more interested in ornery pranks than pulling off a perfect heist. As for our villain—Montana’s high lord of livestock, John Brown—his obsession with hunting down the crooks appears to stem more from boredom than financial necessity. (Considering that he needs a helicopter to travel about his property, you get the sense that his monthly losses at the expense of our cowpoke chuckleheads amounts to relative pocket change.) Even the traitorous ranch hands have little to wring their hands over: their role in the heist is more or less to present the idea and round up some cows. No, no: heist movies don’t get more laid back than this. The relaxed nature of the movie lends itself to the humor provided by the cast, who are just excellent in these roles. Bridges and Waterston are great, but the supporting players truly shine. Slim Pickens is especially wonderful as a decrepit horse thief-turned-investigator. Live and Let Die’s Clifton James is equally funny as a land baron who’s watched too many TV detective shows; as humorous as McGuane’s script is, James delivers almost as much comedy with his frequently-dumbfounded facial expressions. Even the ladies—Elizabeth Ashley as the rancher’s disinterested wife, and Charlene Dallas as Pickens’ suspiciously innocent niece—have memorable roles. You know the casting was well-done when Harry Dean Stanton, usually the best part of anything he’s involved with, is only your fifth-or-sixth favorite supporting player.
It’s a very minor cameo, but too awkward not to mention: Joe Spinell—of Taxi Driver, Rocky, and The Godfather fame—plays Waterston’s Native American father. While this was far from the first (or last) time an Italian character actor was cast as Native American, his makeup is caked on so dark and visibly heavy that his appearance might dip dangerously close into the uncanny valley for anyone who’s seen him recently in another movie. (Perhaps, say, FCE’s own Walking the Edge?) It’s almost weird-looking enough to distract some viewers from hearing Spinell deliver one of the movie’s funniest monologues. Be ready to pay attention. Rancho Deluxe is another under-discussed gem from a label that keeps digging up films I never knew I needed to see. The restored, Blu-ray presentation does proper justice to the movie’s handsome cinematography—this is very much a Western comedy, with scene after scene shot against beautiful, mountainous backgrounds. Extras include an interview with author Thomas McGuane, an audio commentary by critic Nick Pinkerton, and a photo gallery packed with super high-definition stills snapped during the production. The highlight, though, is a Zoom-style interview with star Jeff Bridges, to whom this film obviously holds a very special place in his heart—the actor resides in Montana, in the town where the film was shot, and married one of the local extras who worked on the shoot. It’s an endearing story that we’ll reserve for anyone who picks up the disc. (vinegarsyndrome.com/collections/fun-city-editions/products/rancho-deluxe-fun-city-editions)


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