J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Hannah’s Law: She Brings ‘em in Alive, Mostly

As a principled lawman, Wyatt Earp respects a bounty hunter like Hannah Beaumont, who always brings her fugitives in alive, rather than dead.  A scoundrel like Doc Holliday can also appreciate Beaumont, because she’s a woman.  Before the O.K. Corral, they will all meet up in Dodge for some frontier justice in Hannah’s Law (promo here), a Hallmark Movie Channel original feature, premiering this Saturday.

As a girl, Beaumont witnessed Frank McMurphy’s gang kill her family in cold blood, unbeknownst to them.  She became a bounty hunter to track down every last man.  Refusing to become a murderer as well, she forces them to face justice.  At least that had been the plan.  It seems McMurphy has gotten wind of her.  Rounding up a new gang of cutthroats, McMurphy is headed to Dodge and Hell is riding with them.

The “Earp & Holliday: the early years” concept is reasonably fresh and showing it from a woman’s perspective is a nice Hallmark-friendly twist.  However, Law is not particularly ambitious by western genre standards, essentially knocking down the revenge dominos as soon as it sets them up.  Beaumont could also use a few humanizing flaws, besides hooking up with a certain consumptive dentist.  Not only does she refrain from killing, Beaumont always donates her bounties to the local orphanage.  Indeed, she is quite modern in her thinking for the 1870’s.  Two of her nearest and dearest friends are African American: her mentor, Isom Dart, and her BFF, Stagecoach Annie.  She even marks off all the voluntary donations on her income tax—at least she probably would have, if there had been one at the time.

Sara (Vampire Diaries) Canning is perfectly presentable as Beaumont, but she never really conveys much righteous intensity.  While darker days are in store for his character, Greyston Holt brings a likability and sense of integrity to Earp that works well enough for television.  Danny Glover also plays off his “too old for this . . .” persona quite effectively as Dart.  However, Kimberly Elise’s Stagecoach Annie (conveniently, her job is part of her name) is annoyingly codependent on Beaumont.   In contrast, Ryan Kennedy seems to be having great fun as Holliday, which is exactly how the part is traditionally played.

While not redefining the genre, Law screenwriter-co-executive producer John Fasano has the good sense to end it with a shootout.  Frankly, this is a convention that never gets old and director Rachel Talay stages it rather well.  While she has an extensive television resume, Talay’s early directorial credits include Tank Girl and Freddy’s Dead: the Final Nightmare, two features you are not likely to be thinking of while watching Law.

Hannah’s Law is a serviceable western overall, with a few notable dramatic moments from the supporting cast and some decent action sequences.  Still, it is kind of nice to see an original western on television and the Hallmark Movie Channel deserves some credit for programming them semi-regularly, even before the breakout success of AMC’s Hell on Wheels.  For western diehards, it should provide an okay sagebrush fix when it airs this Saturday night (6/9) on the Hallmark Movie Channel.

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