Plot: Kilpatrick (Richard Harris) is the sheriff of a Santa Rosa, a small frontier town that has all the amenities. He isn’t the typical lawman however, as he dislikes guns and tries to uphold in the law with nonviolent means when circumstances allow. But when a gang of thugs invade the town and rob the local bank, leaving in their wake a blood soaked trail of death and destruction. In the chaos, Kilpatrick’s wife and son are murdered, flipping a switch inside his soul. Some of the residents join forces to fight back, trying to head off the escape, but the crooks manage to get out of town. Kilpatrick pursues the gang and finds himself in a much different mindset than usual, as he is driven to avenge the violence brought to Santa Rosa. After he catches and interrogates one of the gunmen, he learns the ringleader Brand (Rod Taylor) plans to cross in Mexico, out of the sheriff’s jurisdiction. Kilpatrick then coldly slashes the man to death and continues his pursuit, only to be sidetracked by a Mexican lawman, who informs him that he cannot kill in the name of the law on this side of the border. But will Kilpatrick honor the law or will he seek vengeance at any cost?
Entertainment Value: The Deadly Trackers is a movie that went through directorial shifts, rewrites, and recuts, only to be rushed into theaters and soon after, left in the dark to vanish into the abyss. I’ve read that genre fans dislike how inconsistent the narrative is and the one dimensional characters, which are valid arguments, but I don’t think The Deadly Trackers is the total wash some people claim. I love mean spirited, violent movies, so of course I have a soft spot for this one, with a sociopath villain and a broken protagonist on a blood soaked revenge march. Richard Harris and his glorious hairstyle are fun to watch, but the rogue gallery of stereotypical bad guys steals the show. I mean, one of the bad guys has a chunk of railroad tie for a hand, which he uses to smash open watermelons. And we all know villainous crews have internal conflicts, but this gang argues over proper grammar and the leader gets offended if people don’t laugh at his lame jokes. So I can’t argue that this is a classic western, but I do think it has value through a different lens. I embrace the absurd narrative jumps, outlandish bad guys, and 80s pro wrestler haircut, as they’re fun, even if they’re terrible. It wants to be this dark, harrowing tale about the heavy cost of revenge, but instead it leaps between tones and has some unintended entertainment value. So don’t dismiss The Deadly Trackers just because it isn’t a “good western,” as there are more reasons to watch a movie than to see genre conventions followed to perfection. Think of it as an almost campy, inconsistent Death Wish in the old west, as that is more accurate.
No nakedness. A little blood, but not that much. A few splashy gun shots here and there, with bright red crimson, stage blood style. A good amount of violence though, from gunfights to fist fights to trying to drown a woman, but none of it is overly graphic or all that horrific. But there is a dark tone to the violence, so it packs more of a punch than the visual shock alone. Plus, Harris and his hall of fame coif are responsible for a lot of it, which enhances the experience. The dialogue is mostly run of the mill tough guy talk, but we also get some strange exchanges and of course, holier than thou lessons from Harris, until his family is slaughtered, then he changes his tune. The bad guys get most of the best lines, with their unique brand of in-fighting and Brand’s refusal to even try to use proper grammar. Not many home run level lines, but a few gems and enough to earn a couple points. In terms of craziness, there is some unintended wackiness from the plot’s odd shifts and logic gaps, as well as the contrast of the dark premise against the absurd moments that unfold. I have to mention the guy with the railroad tie hand again as well, as he is just a diamond in this rough.
Overall Insanity: 1/10