HIGH NOON – DVD review

Emilie de Ravin does a little “moonlighting” with Cybill Shepherd in this 2009 made-for-TV movie. The Lifetime production of Nora Roberts’ High Noon was shot while the actress was also playing Claire on ABC-TV’s “Lost.”

Aside from the hair color (Roberts’ heroine was a redhead), de Ravin makes a believable Lt. Phoebe McNamara, and this TV movie stays pretty close to the 2007 novel, from what I can tell. But there are a few unintended puzzlers. I’m no cop, but I easily believed that the soft-edged McNamara could sweet-talk jumpers off ledges and convince hostage-takers to come out and have a little chat with her. Heck, I would. It made less sense to me that a specialty officer and fringe player like this would also be in charge of disciplining uniformed officers. Isn’t that what cranky, no-nonsense, “I’ll have your ass for breakfast” types are for?

But that’s the set-up, and in typical TV fashion we see McNamara in action, we meet her agoraphobic mother–Shepherd, who’s locked away for most of the movie and has about as much to do as the couch–and we see a determined suitor suit up for action and pursue her with the same doggedness as the S.O.B. she suspended who’s looking for revenge. That’s it in a nutshell.

Even for TV crime dramas it’s pretty straight up. There are no twists, no red herrings, and no surprises. But de Ravin has the looks and personality to carry a movie like this, and if it were a TV pilot I suspect that executives would be in a back room smiling, smoking cigars and nodding their heads. De Ravin keeps you watching and caring despite the formulaic and predictable plot. She brings Roberts’ character to life, and that’s all you can ask.

Well, maybe not all. I would have liked at least one other suspect to make me wonder a bit about who attacked her and handcuffed her inside her own precinct building, and who’s been harassing her and pushing her toward a climactic showdown at “high noon” (and referencing the 1952 classic western in the process). But the real “High Noon” was a psychological thriller that was sustained in part by tight close-ups on Gary Cooper’s face and repeated references to a shadow growing on the dirt main street of town. I didn’t read the novel (only paged through it) and so I can’t blame Roberts, and I don’t know what was cut or changed from the screenplay by writer Terri Kopp (“Law & Order”). But I can say that the final product as directed by Peter Markle (“Faith of My Fathers,” “Flight 93”) attempts nothing of the sort. The angles are mostly point-of-view, and the shots mostly medium. Even a scene where the boyfriend sees the “perp” in a grocery store feels more awkward and clumsy than tense and dramatic. Aside from a few scenes, there just isn’t the level of tension you’d expect in a crime drama like this.

But Nora Roberts isn’t just about crime. She’s about romance as well, and that blossoms in believably one-sided fashion when a bar owner (Ivan Sergei, “Jack & Jill”) reports an employee who stole from him is threatening to jump off a building. Impressed by McNamara professionally and smitten by her personally, he asks her out and doesn’t take no for an answer. Though he apparently won a million dollars (which is how he came to be a bar owner) she’s still not interested, and that’s because of a backstory subplot that’s only sketchily presented–a child-support dodging ex- (Peter Benson)–who’s worn her out emotionally and is pulled into the plot with the scarcest of explanations.

Sony released four Nora Roberts Lifetime TV movies recently, and “High Noon” is the best of the bunch. That’s because, in part, as bare-bones as the plot is, it’s still well written and performed to be worth watching. But mostly, as I said, it’s de Ravin’s charisma that makes “High Noon” enjoyable lightweight entertainment. The other releases, for Roberts fans, are “Midnight Bayou” (Jerry O’Connell, Lauren Stamile, and Faye Dunaway), “Northern Lights” (LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian, and Rosanna Arquette), and “Tribute” (Brittany Murphy, Jason Lewis, Tippi Hedren, and Diana Scarwid). All are unrated, though there’s a sped-up, clothes-flying, skin-flashing scene in which the leads are implied to have had intercourse. I wouldn’t call it family friendly, but it should appeal to Lifetime lovers. The thing is, if you want a copy of “High Noon,” you’ll have to go to Wal-Mart, because that’s the only distributor for these titles.

All four videos have decent production values, with a minimum of grain for a standard-def release, natural skin tones, and a strong color palette. “High Noon” is presented in 1.78 anamorphic widescreen.

The audio isn’t quite as crisp–more a functional Dolby Digital 5.1 without much sonic depth or rear-speaker involvement. Subtitles are in English and French.

There are no bonus features.

Bottom Line:
Emilie de Ravin has shined in an ensemble like “Lost,” and if nothing else “High Noon” proves that she has the charisma to headline her own TV show. But be warned, “High Noon” is lightweight entertainment of the TV-movie sort, not the stylized high drama we get on “Lost.”