Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Desperate Riders (Lionsgate, 2022)




Desperate Trails is one of those straight-to-video Westerns which is modest in scope and equally so in achievement, but has a couple of points of interest.


It was directed and produced by Michael Feifer, who has done a number of these pictures (see, for example, our reviews of Catch the Bullet and Wyatt Earp’s Revenge), and it was written by Western novelist Lee Martin, one of three Feifer oaters he has penned (and another is announced).


Feifer at the helm


Some of the Tennessee locations were quite nice.


It stars Drew Waters, not an actor I knew (“I love Westerns. I’m a Texas boy at heart,” he said in an interview, also declaring himself a Clint fan) as Kansas Red, one of those quick-draw artists whose name when mentioned makes people gasp.


Drew is Kansas Red


It has Trace Adkins as the chief bad guy.  I’m not the greatest fan of Mr Adkins in Westerns and I think that as an actor he makes a great singer but he’s suitably villainous in this one, I suppose.


Trace of evil


More interesting, in terms of guest stars, is Tom Berenger as the local dentist-turned-doc, who patches people up after gunfights (especially Kansas Red). Westernistas may think of Mr Berenger as Jim Vance in Hatfields & McCoys, or maybe as Teddy Roosevelt in Rough Riders. Earlier he’d been Butch Cassidy in Butch and Sundance: The Early Days and I’d also mention Last of the Dogmen in the 1990s. He has a decent Western CV, and in fact was the strongest actor on the set of Desperate Riders.


Tom digs the bullets out


There’s a kid, 17-year-old Billy (Sam Ashby) who gets into a shooting scrape by cheating at poker in a saloon, and Kansas comes to his aid. The boy knows all about Kansas from dime novels and pleads with the famous gunfighter to come help find his missing mother (Victoria Pratt), for the wicked Thorn (Adkins) has abducted her. Kansas reluctantly agrees, and the two set out on a very sub-The Searchers search.


Gambler kid


Because this is a 21st-century Western, they of course meet up with a glam blonde gun-totin’ woman (Vanessa Evigan) of the feisty variety who insists on riding with them for she is also after Thorn.




And there’s an African-American cowhand, played by hick-hop artist Cowboy Troy, about whom I know nothing, not having a great deal of hick-hop on my iPod (yes, I still use an iPod).


I wouldn’t say token, but…


The middle of the film drags, as long pursuits are wont to do unless well-directed, but the pace picks up a bit when they finally come to the grand Southern mansion where Thorn is holed up. A number of modestly-surprising (only modestly) plot twists are then revealed, the villain is duly dispatched (no spoiler here, I think), Kansas, the kid and the dames set off for pastures new in Montana, The End.



It’s all rather uninspired, I fear. Still, they made a Western, so kudos for that. You could watch it. Just. It’s up on Amazon Prime at the mo’, at least where I live.



10 Responses

  1. Tom Berenger who can can look easily terrifying with a simple look, a little like Ed Harris, was Chivington in an Into the West TV Steven Spielberg series episode called… Hell on Wheels.
    He played also General Longstreet in Gettysburg (even if Civil War in Pennsylvania is not as western as it can be). I saw him on TV in the US in an other western in which James Coburn was Charlton Heston bodyguard, Heston being Brigham Young or Joseph Smith, a curiosity more than a masterpiece I’m afraid… I did not check if you have listed it in your Coburnorama Hestonypedia though…

        1. Plenty of singers who did Westerns on the side. At one point in the 1950s/60s it seemed you couldn’t make a Western without one.

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