"The Pledge" premiered on the Hallmark Channel only three days before its debut on DVD. This original telefilm stars former "Beverly Hills 90210" heartthrob, Luke Perry, as Sheriff Matt Austin and with a name like that you know he's the hero. Austin's wife has been asking him to hang up his gun belt and tin star for a while, but Austin is reluctant to settle down. Things take a turn for the worse when Tate (Kim Coates), a convict the sheriff put away, escapes from prison and murders Austin's wife and son.
Meanwhile, outside the town of Crockett, a hard-working farmer Eddie Aguilar (Alex Paez) is doing his best to defend his family's farm from a greedy land baron named Lamar Horn (C. Thomas Howell). Eddie lives on the farm with his widowed sister Amaya (Jaclyn DeSantis), her son Billy (Wyatt Smith), and a handful of ranch hands. Once, their land was a part of Mexico, but now they're a part of California giving Horn a loophole to seize their property. Eddie heads into Crockett to hire some help, but nearly all the townsfolk are afraid of standing up to Horn. The villain has the town's sheriff, Montero (Francisco Quinn), in his pocket and even has the town preacher (James Keane) running errands for him.
With nowhere to turn, Eddie rides to another town known for its collection of roughnecks and outlaws. Much like Luke and Obi-Wan searching for help at the Mos Eisley Cantina, Eddie walks into the nearest saloon hoping to find a pair of gun hands. He finds one in Tate and his crew. Not long after, Austin arrives, locking eyes with the man who murdered his family. In the blink of an eye, guns are drawn. Tate escapes and Eddie is shot in the crossfire. Using his dying words, Eddie pleads for someone to help his sister. Austin brings Eddie's body home and sets about to make things right. Eventually, he gathers up a few brave souls to defend the farm as Horn and his henchmen, including a freshly hired Tate, form a posse for the climactic showdown.
The script was written by Jim Byrnes whose credits include plenty of Westerns like "The Gambler" with Kenny Rogers and the television series "Gunsmoke." It is a pure paint-by-numbers screenplay. "The Pledge" has all the archetypal characters living out the well-worn formula of a typical Western. We've got the gunfighter looking for revenge, the awestruck boy who reveres him, the ruthless landowner, the rival gunman, and the virginal female lead. The story is pretty predictable and rather light to boot. Once all the pieces are in place, the film just treads water until we get the big shootout at the end. The climax is pleasantly passable and looks to end things darker than I expected. However, the resolution comes too quickly and easily.
The performances are fair, if unremarkable, with Luke Perry doing his best Clint Eastwood impression as the film's hero. C. Thomas Howell is actually quite good as the mustache-twirling villain. His wrinkly face and hoarse voice makes his Lamar Horn a watered down version of Al Swearengen from "Deadwood."
The video is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The transfer is clean and the colors are sharp.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Dialogue comes in crystal clear, although a lot of the sound effects and gunshots don't have the bass you might expect.
None. There are previews for other Western releases like "Lonesome Dove," "Aces ‘N Eights," and "Lone Rider" which play as the DVD starts up.
Also known as "A Gunfighter's Pledge" is better than it has any right to be, but it's a film that no one will confuse with classics like "The Searchers" or "The Wild Bunch." The director does throw in a few visual references to John Ford and Sergio Leone, the masters of the genre. The movie is certainly better than the last made-for-TV Western I reviewed, Aces N' Eights, but it is still formulaic and uneventful.