So much footage was canned for a regular one-hour episode of the CBS crime-fighting series starring Chuck Norris as Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, that the show’s producers fashioned it into a two-hour spec. The result is an ambitious undertaking that succeeds on several levels, most notably the writing and acting. The occasional bad joke successfully endears the characters to viewers and high spots of action should help keep the young offspring of the married-with-children set tuned in.
A huge high-five also should go to actor Clarence Gilyard, who plays two roles in addition to his gig as Walker’s assistant Trivette, an Armani-suited, college-degreed sidekick.
The spec also strikes a historical pose, lauding the contributions of the U.S. Calvary’s Buffalo Soldiers of the 1860s, as part of a back story that involves a regiment headed by Benjamin Lockett (Gilyard), whose detail transporting a shipment of gold is wiped out by outlaws, with Lockett the lone survivor.
The gold surfaces 130 years later, discovered by a weathered, ’90s-era prospector. But it soon is stolen during a coin-store robbery by a coldblooded bad guy, Kimbell (Martin Kove), and his unwashed underlings.
The gold-hunting geezer is killed and Walker sets forth to avenge the murder orchestrated by Kimbell. Kove’s efforts in this setting are a stark departure from his role as Det. Isbecki on “Cagney& Lacey,” as he oozes despicability at every turn.
Telefilm has few surprises and bogs down slightly in the middle, predominantly during the search for Walker.
But Norris and Gilyard ride tall in the bucket seats of their four-wheel-drive pickup, and scripter Jim Byrnes crafts an interesting tale, articulating it by juxtaposing contemporary sensibilities with frontier justice.
Director Tony Mordente draws solid dramatic perfs from his cast. Pic’s second unit lights up the lulls in the story by providing fast-paced back-roads bumper-car action in the form of several car chases and top-drawer stuntwork.