×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Virginian

Bill Pullman joins the ranks of first-time directors at TNT -- a list that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones -- with this languid and reverential adaptation of Owen Wister's classic 1902 western novel about a mysterious and idiosyncratic horseman without an evident name.

With:
The Virginian - Bill Pullman Molly Stark - Diane Lane Steve - John Savage Sam Balaam - Dennis Weaver Rider - James Drury Judge Henry - Harris Yulin Trampas - Colm Feore

Bill Pullman joins the ranks of first-time directors at TNT — a list that includes Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tommy Lee Jones — with this languid and reverential adaptation of Owen Wister’s classic 1902 western novel about a mysterious and idiosyncratic horseman without an evident name.

It’s the fifth time “The Virginian” has been rendered to film (most famously in 1929 starring Gary Cooper and Walter Huston) and its second telling on TV (running as a weekly NBC western saga from 1962-71). This latest retelling is as comfortable as a well-worn boot.

For his first outing as a hyphenate (director-producer-star), Pullman shows an effortless grasp of a genre that TNT has single-handedly kept alive: the western. If Pullman looks a tad too slick to evoke a convincing pillar of cowboy morality, he balances it out with a steady, unforced performance and a directorial hand that illustrates sharp artistic instincts.

And this Pullman fella is no fool. Opposite his Virginian, he casts the seemingly ageless Diane Lane as his Molly Stark (a luminous frontier schoolteacher with willfulness to spare). The two show off an easy chemistry, made easier by the simple fact that Lane tends to make everyone and everything in her orbit look better (case in point: “Lonesome Dove”).

The smart casting decisions likewise extend beyond the prime leads and arouse a genuine sense of western history, with the players including Dennis Weaver, Harris Yulin, James Drury (TV’s original Virginian) and the superb John Savage.

Larry Gross’ adapted teleplay boasts of being more faithful to Wister’s original novel than its “Virginian” predecessors. But the story remains essentially the same: a Virginia man (Pullman) sets out from his native state in the 1890s and heads west to try his hand at carving a niche in the Wyoming Territory. He finds work as a ranch-hand, using it as the backdrop in his obsessive search for justice and righteousness.

The Virginian would find far more than he bargained for, including friends that betray him, evildoers who challenge his manhood and a woman whose love comes with strings of behavioral accountability attached. Both Colm Feore (as the wicked young cowpoke Trampas) and Dennis Weaver (as lily-livered villain Sam Balaam) contribute strong, colorful characterizations. And Lane inflects the part with a quiet, mesmerizing dignity.

Rick Roberts’ spare production design joins hands with the breathtaking countryside locale to further bolster “The Virginian,” which demonstrates that even in its fifth movie go-round a story can be made to feel fresh enough. Keep an eye on this Pullman kid. If he ever decides to quit his day job, he just might be able to make a go of directing.

Popular on Variety

The Virginian

TNT; Sun. Jan. 9, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed in Wyoming by TNT. Executive producer, Daniel H. Blatt; producers, Lynn Raynor, Bill Pullman, Ruth Fainberg; co-producer, Grace Gilroy; director, Pullman; writer, Larry Gross; based on the novel "The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains" by Owen Wister.

Cast: The Virginian - Bill Pullman Molly Stark - Diane Lane Steve - John Savage Sam Balaam - Dennis Weaver Rider - James Drury Judge Henry - Harris Yulin Trampas - Colm FeoreCamera, Peter Wunstorf; production designer, Rick Roberts; editor, Paul Trejo; music, Nathan Barr; sound, Garrell Clark; casting, Mary Vernieu, Anne McCarthy. 120 MIN.

More TV

  • Sinclair

    Sinclair Closes Purchase of Fox Regional Sports Networks From Disney

    Sinclair Broadcast Group and the Walt Disney Company have closed their $9.6 billion deal for Sinclair to buy 21 Fox Regional Sports Networks and Fox College Sports. The deal was announced in May after Disney bought the networks as part of its acquisition of Twenty-First Century Fox. The portfolio, which excludes the YES Network, is described [...]

  • Michael Shannon

    Michael Shannon to Play Jerry Buss in HBO's 'Untitled Showtime Lakers Project' Pilot

    Michael Shannon has been cast to play self-made millionaire and former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss in HBO’s “The Untitled Showtime Lakers Project” pilot, based on the Jeff Pearlman book “Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s.” The series, which chronicles the professional and personal lives of the [...]

  • Luna Nera Netflix Italy

    Netflix Eyes More Italian Productions

    Since Netflix entered the Italian market in 2015, it’s steadily gained ground in terms of subscriptions, which are expected to reach 2 million by the end of 2019, according to independent analyst Ovum. The streaming giant recently announced a €200 million ($222 million) investment in Italian original productions over the next three years. Variety spoke [...]

  • 'Serendipity': NBC Developing Series Inspired by

    'Serendipity': NBC Developing Series Inspired by Kate Beckinsale, John Cusack Movie

    NBC has given a script commitment to a prospective series inspired by the 2001 Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack movie “Serendipity.” The project hails from Miramax Television, whose film division produced the original film, and writer Jonny Umansky. The idea for the show seems like a romantic one, here’s the logline: Harry and Claire fall [...]

  • The Bachelor frontrunners

    Who's the Next 'Bachelor'? Here Are Season 24's Three Frontrunners (EXCLUSIVE)

    When last season of “The Bachelorette” wrapped up, many viewers would have guessed the next “Bachelor” would be runner-up Tyler Cameron. But oh, how things change in a month’s time. Cameron, the runner-up in Hannah Brown’s season, who stopped by “The Bachelorette” finale’s live after show to quickly reconcile with Brown and discuss meeting for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content