Growing up on the small Caribbean island known as Puerto Rico, watching Western films was one of the many ways we passed time in our household. Other times, that included watching boxing, WWE PPV events, or anime, whether that was after school or during the early mornings on a Saturday, we had plenty of ways to pass the time. The latter will be left for another story or review for another day as we focus on the former, a Western film titled ‘The Night They Came Home’ written by John A. Russo and directed by Paul G. Volk. The film stars Danny Trejo, Brian Austin Green, Charles Townsend, and Robert Carradine. When I first came across this film it brought back childhood memories of my time in Puerto Rico watching re-runs of ‘Bonanza’ while I didn’t watch every single episode, it is most definitely where my adoration for Western stories stems from.
A story recounted by Danny Trejo’s character named Digger, ‘The Night They Came Home’ retells the story of the Rufus Buck Gang and chronicles their ruthless exploits across the then-Indian Territory now known as Oklahoma and Fort Smith, Arkansas at the tail end of the 19th century. Also showcasing the combined force efforts of local lawmen and Indian police aiming to take down the coldhearted band of fugitives with vengeance on their minds.
Despite a few changes to the story which aren’t huge deviations from the real-life story of the Rufus Buck Gang, ‘The Night They Came Home’ recounts things quite accurately; almost beat for beat. Given the gravity of some of their crimes, like the raping of young girls and women, the killing of young boys, or the way the Rufus Buck Gang would kill some of their victims are either severely downplayed or talked about in passing. Which is completely fine with me. A lot of what happens or what is mentioned very much warrants the film’s R-rating and I think the writers did a swell job threading a line that tells the story accurately without having to go to great lengths to get their point across.
A lot of that credit can also be given to the film’s leading cast and supporting cast. While Danny Trejo was one of the main reasons I wanted to check out this film, his character doesn’t serve much of a purpose in this film outside of telling the story of Rufus Buck and the events that led to his and his gang members’ deaths. The true standout amongst the entirety of this cast for me is Charlie Townsend who portrays the infamous Rufus Buck.
He has the swagger and conviction of a criminal gunslinger that’s a pleasure to see. There are some moments in the film where he does oversell his performance and can come off a bit comical, however, I take it as Townsend just having one hell of a good time on set and creating this film. I think of it as playing cops and robbers as children which was all fun and games back in the day until we truly learn the origin of it all and how it relates to the world today, I’m rambling…
The same thing can be said for some of the other actors in the film. Who try their best to provide a fun side to acting out these scenes that are either comical or borderline cringe. Some of the Marshalls we see also have some very poor line delivery and look either very bored or seem overly tired in those scenes which ultimately took me out of that scene. This happens more than a few times throughout the film.
Most of the older actors have done well in their careers and usually retort to these kinds of roles that keep them working and earning their keep which is fine. Others are clear up-and-comers and are seeking to make a name for themselves and just don’t provide that much of a convincing portrayal of the characters or moments they are reenacting.
My gripes with this film are very minuscule and I very much enjoyed the simplicity of this Western film. The set design isn’t all that great but it appears that most of it, if not all, was filmed on location and that’s something I can personally praise. I will take on-location filming over the green screen (depending on the genre of film, obviously) any day. The same can be said for the film’s costume design.
Gripes are small but this is a period piece film where the clothes these individuals wore were quite telling of their social status and way of living and that’s all accurately depicted here. However, when compared to films like Netflix’s ‘The Harder They Fall’ which is inspired by this very same story, it’s hard to overlook the lack of simplistic flair and overall deliverance in performances.
By the end of it all, ‘The Night They Came Home’ provided everything I enjoy from a simple Western film. Gunslinging, crime, and violence. As mentioned above, it reminded me a lot of ‘Bonanza’ which is something that I am not reminded of very often. If you’re into this kind of simplistic, condensed Western media then this film is for you. If you’re more into the over-the-top gunslinging films like ‘3:10 to Yuma’, ‘The Old Way’, ‘The Magnificent Seven’, ‘Django’, and ‘No Country For Old Men’ then you may leave this film rather underwhelmed.
‘The Night They Came Before’ is now playing in select theaters and is available to buy/rent on digital.
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