Mac struggles with being 17 and loses: He’s cocky and mean, and he snipes particularly at Hawkes. Bell encourages Mac to do his job, and, when Mac gets out of order, banishes him for a while to a lookout point. As summer winds down, Bell, a terrible card player, surprisingly works up a plan for everyone to invest in a poker game that Hawkes will play in town; it’s a prize, if dishonorable, game, and Mac begins to smarten up.
It’s Mac’s story. O’Connell, “Sliders” luminary, is topflight as the evolving adolescent Mac.
Elliott, playing without a moustache, commands the screen, as usual. Parker’s a delight as the waitress who helps Mac. Jay does well as the mysterious Hawkes.
Director Harrison brings off the tale by never overstating it and by measuring Mac’s growth without trumpeting it.
Henry Lebo’s lensing and Michael Ornstein’s editing are superior, while Lawrence Shragge’s uncomplicated score echoes an entire era. “The Ranger” is a delight.