Monday, June 29, 2015

The Cowgirl Way

In the realm of cinema, can we all agree that "...And Gary Busey" is just about the most promising opening credit one can hope to see?

I thought so too.

Quick Plot: The town of Silver Creek is under attack during the Civil War, leaving its ladies raped, widowed, and childless. After watching her young son run into gunfire, a young woman named Hannah snaps and takes some vengeance on all of the men in range, including an apologetic officer. 

Three years later, Hannah has corralled her fellow ladies to form a gang of bank robbing cowgirls. The team includes the unstable and lovelorn Ellie (she of the modified Rachel haircut, which was all the rage in the 19th century), the mature but still sexy caretaker who goes by the name Widow (Amanda Donohoe from The Lair of the White Worm), and a whole bunch of other impeccably groomed beauties whose names don't ever seem to matter. The gals go from town to town in disguise, never leaving any solid trace of their identity or gender.

Everything changes when they set their targets on a town run by Sheriff Gary Busey. Well, Busey doesn’t really have anything to do with it (he gets a whopping 10 minutes or so of oddly subdued screentime) but his buddy Wes (former Beverly Hills, 90210 baddie Paul Johansson) has been on the lookout for the mysterious gunslingers who killed his pop way back in the fateful Silver City.

Before we can get a high noon shootout, Wes and Hannah have to fall in love (much to the chagrin of the jealous Ellie, who’d rather keep her cowgirl leader to herself). Widow takes up a rather sweet and satisfying relationship with Wes’s pal Jack, but double dates are thwarted by the minor inconvenience of crime, vengeance, and slow motion.

When I saw the fairly ridiculous title Hooded Angels on Netflix Instant, I eagerly added it to my queue because how could it not be terrible? A female western that no one’s ever heard of, a cast composed of no-name model actresses, the inclusion of Paul couldn’t be good, right?

I’m not going to lie: the most disappointing thing about watching Hooded Angels (aka Glory Glory) is that it’s...okay. We’re not talking Unforgiven levels of western grandeur, but truthfully, this is far more passable entertainment (and far more female positive entertainment) than the big budget, big failure that was Bad Girls.

Do most of the actresses speak with unexplained South African accents? Yes. Does the slow motion drama turn tragic deaths into rather amazing moments for giggles? Absolutely. Do I know who half of the characters are? Not in the least. But you know what? This is still...okay.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Hooded Angels to lovers of the American (or South African) western, but director Paul Matthews manages to put together a decent little story. The actresses are unreasonably gorgeous and do their best with their parts, even if none will ever make the short list for Academy Awards consideration. The film even manages to offer some genuine feminist solidarity, centering itself on a (somewhat) diverse group of women who banded together so that they would never be victims again. Sure, the camera enjoys highlighting their beauty, but overall, Hooded Angels respects its female characters and never exploits them. That’s not at all what I expected to find here, and it’s certainly a pleasant surprise.

High Points
Widow and Jack’s romance takes a secondary role to the action, but there’s a rather sweet little post coital conversation they have that has a wonderfully natural tone to it. There’s nothing revolutionary about it, but it’s simply nice to see a positive depiction of guilt-free sex between a slightly older woman and a friendly younger guy

Low Points
I suppose it would have been nice to know who all of those OTHER pretty cowgirls were  in order to make their stretched out slow motion deaths hit a little harder

Lessons Learned
Learning how to write will make you feel smarter

All deaths are better when shown in super slow motion

1870s era cowgirls had unlimited access to tweezers and salon waxes

Stray Observations
You now what I’m tired of? Characters hushing other dying characters. I get that the sentiment comes from a “don’t strain yourself” goal, but if I’m DYING, why not allow me to say what I need to say? 


Hooded Angels won’t ever be considered a classic, but it has plenty of pretty scenery and people getting shot off of horses to satisfy a certain kind of audience. If that’s you, then go for it.

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