The Austin Chronicle

Frank and Jesse

Directed by Robert Boris. Starring Rob Lowe, Bill Paxton, Randy Travis.

REVIEWED By Brian Baker, Fri., Oct. 28, 1994

Over the years, talents as unique, wide and varied as Roy Rogers, Tyrone Power, and Kris Kristofferson have each portrayed the infamous outlaw Jesse James. The reason for this tale's continual resurgence is probably the popular appeal of the James brothers' unrelenting battle against an uncaring capitalist corporation. After the father of Frank (Paxton) and Jesse (Lowe) James is murdered for his property by emissaries of the railroad, the brothers swear vengeance and begin to rob companies owned and operated by the railroad. It is the American Dream gone horribly awry. This latest installment of the legendary tale, Frank and Jesse, is also a further example of the new breed of dark and brooding new wave westerns that have followed in the wake of Unforgiven. However, calling Frank and Jesse a “new” anything is inaccurate. The film is actually a by-the-numbers western cliché. Granted, much of the film is based on fact, but I'm sure the James brothers never said anything like, “We blew guys' brains out and laughed about it,” or “I know I could kill you, I'm just not convinced you'd stay dead,” or “I saw his eyes, his eyes were black as coal.” Lowe is fairly good despite the weak material he has to work with, but his goatee makes him look too much like that Teddy Ruxpin toy and, therefore, he cannot be taken seriously. Paxton is simply boring. Travis' part as Cole Younger is basically a waste, except you get to hear him sing “Auld Lang Syne.” Sure, the song seemed completely out of place, but it was better than watching another montage. There are at least three times when newspaper headlines are blended with live action shots and music. I would love to see an original script. I'm sure it would be just as clichéd but entire scenes often felt totally out of place. For instance, Jesse suddenly gets mad at Frank and points a gun at him for no reason, and this scene is never mentioned again. In fact, Jesse is never mad at Frank again. This event occurs directly before the introduction of a narrator halfway through the film. The whole thing is sloppily edited and when that's added with cliché dialogue, lackluster performances, and haphazard direction, you know you've got another James brothers movie headed straight for the recycling pile.

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