Imagine a saddle-sore ’50s B-Western overlaid with down-and-dirty, “Deadwood”-style squalor, and you’re ready for the long, hard ride that is “The Far Side of Jericho.” Far too aggressively seamy (and ferociously foul-mouthed) to please diehard fans of traditional sagebrush sagas, this misfire offers nothing in the way of wit, innovation or even marquee allure to interest auds accustomed to edgier revisionist oaters. Recently showcased in a fleeting L.A. theatrical run, vet helmer Tim Hunter’s small-budget indie soon will be herded off to vidstore corrals and niche cable networks.
The plot contrived by scripters Rob Sullivan and James Crumley pivots on the feisty wives of three outlaw brothers. Well, actually, make that feisty widows; during the pic’s opening minutes, the outlaws are strung up by angry townspeople after an ill-fated bank robbery. The widows — straight-shooting Maxine (Suzanne Andrews), hard-drinking Claire (Judith Burnett) and sexy ex-prostie Bridget (Lissa Negrin) — don’t know where their husbands buried the loot from the final heist. But that doesn’t stop trigger-happy townspeople from paying an unwelcome visit to their ranch, so the squabbling sisters-in-law are forced to vamoose.
As they gallop across much of New Mexico, they’re pursued by a stern sheriff (Patrick Bergin), a corrupt banker (Lawrence Pressman), a demented preacher (James Gammon), a posse of heavy boozers and lousy shooters, maladroit Pinkertons, Indian tribesmen and, occasionally, the ghosts of their dearly departed husbands. But their journey doesn’t have a clearly defined destination until the women piece together a treasure map that may lead them — and their pursuers — to either Easy Street or Boot Hill.
Bad enough to make “Bad Girls” look like “Stagecoach,” “The Far Side of Jericho” includes lethargic pacing, unexciting shootouts and unimpressive tech values, while performances range from awkwardly flat to over-the-top. Gammon provides welcome patches of comic relief with a performance that leads one to suspect that, between takes, he had to floss bits of scenery from his teeth.
But the three femme leads lack charisma, and Pressman must launch fusillades of F-bombs to give his unidimentional character any distinction. Bergin makes a suitably nasty impression as the sheriff, but his rendition of the closing-credits theme song (which he wrote) is either a joke that doesn’t come off, or something much worse.