Purgatory

Rosemont Productions International

Fantasy Western TV Movie
94 min     7.7     1999     USA

Overview

An outlaw band flees a posse and rides into Refuge, a small town where no one carries a gun, drinks, or swears. The town is actually Purgatory, and the peaceful inhabitants are all famous dead outlaws and criminals such as Doc Holiday and Wild Bill Hickok who must redeem themselves before gaining admittance to Heaven... or screw up and go to Hell.

Reviews

John Chard wrote:
To think some of you used to be my heroes. There quite often comes a time when a film fan who is so enamoured with a specific genre or style of film making, comes across a picture that one knows is far from perfect if deconstructed frame by frame, but still loves it with every breath they take. Purgatory is one such film for myself. Purgatory, a TNT TV production, is that rare old beast of the Western fused with fantastical or supernatural elements. More often than not this is a blend that proved to be disastrous, hence why there are so few films of this type put into production here in the modern era. Yet director Uli Edel and producer Daniel Schneider pulled it off back in 1999, my only regret is that it took me so long to let it into my cinematic life. The title is something of a give away, thus rendering the supposed twist as being hardly surprising. However, it was not the intention of the film makers to hoist a Sixth Sense surprise on us, really it wasn't. We are asked to put ourselves into the young Greenhorn shoes of Leon "Sonny" Miller (Brad Rowe) and experience his own coming of age awakening. From dime novels and hero worship to first kills and first loves, Sonny is our conduit and the key holder to the gates of redemption for many of the Wild West's legendary characters. The cast is a veritable feast of splendid character actors playing a veritable feast of iconic real life people. Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, Randy Quaid, Peter Stormare, Donnie Wahlberg and J.D. Souther. While Brad Fiedel provides a musical score of some magnificent beauty, a piece that revels in heroic swirls and escalating emotions, it darts around the town of "Refuge" like a novelist writing a dime novel soon to go down in folklore legend. Budget restrictions are hidden very well, Edel and his cinematographer William Wages prove adept at lighting techniques and scene staging. Be it keeping things in the shade or cloaking a sequence with believable dust clouds, there's a professional touch here that puts the pic into the upper echelons of TV movies. Then there's the action, a key component for so many Western fans, and thankfully Purgatory is book-ended by superb action sequences, with the finale a skilled lesson in shoot-out choreography and machismo pulse beats. And then there's the emotional kickers, ready to be embraced by those who still yearn to have the spirit lifted and the heart gladdened. I could write a whole weighty paragraph on Purgatory's flaws, maybe even point out thematically what I think will annoy others, because for sure not everything works. But as a Western movie lover I found myself cheering at the film's end, even wiping away a damn fly from my eye. That's job done for me, a Western that tickled and teased my every emotion, wonderful. 10/10
Wuchak wrote:
Last chance for the marginally good plucked from the incorrigibly wicked RELEASED TO TV IN 1999 and directed by Uli Edel, “Purgatory” chronicles events circa 1888 when a gang of outlaws led by Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts) holds up in a mysterious hidden town called Refuge where the inhabitants seem overly gracious and pacifistic. Respectful greenhorn Sonny (Brad Rowe) increasingly suspects something strange is happening. Sam Shepard plays the Sheriff, Donnie Wahlberg his deputy, Randy Quaid the doctor and JD Souther a shop-owner. Amelia Heinle and Shannon Kenny are on hand in the feminine department. Other than the action-packed opening, this is a town-bound Western. While you can pick-up the made-for-TV quality right away, the movie scores well in its intriguing premise and quality writing. There are fantastical elements akin to “Pale Rider” (1985) and “High Plains Drifter” (1973). The movie’s pretty much on par with the former and superior to the latter IMHO due to the more engaging story and weighty subtext. THE FILM RUNS 1 hour, 34 minutes and was shot in Barstow and Burbank Studios, California. WRITER: Gordon T. Dawson. GRADE: B ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY ***SPOILER ALERT*** (Don’t read unless you’ve watched the movie). Some viewers misunderstood the premise of the movie. The town of Refuge isn't just for outlaws; it's the "last chance" for the "marginally good," as phrased in the movie; it evens says something like the inhabitants were plucked from the incorrigibly wicked. As such, the citizens (not visitors) have different identities and occupations than in their former lives. For instance, Billy the Kid is now Deputy Glen, not a gunfighter; and Dolly Sloan is now Ivy, not a prostitute or suffragette. Holliday was now Doc Woods, an M.D. and not a dentist, who wasn't skinny because he no longer has tuberculosis. Just the same, Jesses James was now a shop owner named Brooks and was no longer robbing trains. Some contend that James deserved immediate damnation because he was a notorious bank/train robber, but the movie implies that he was corrupted by the Civil War during his developing years which involved the bloody guerrilla warfare in Missouri/Kansas and therefore he is given a "last chance" in Refuge . As for the dubious chronology, Holliday might have been a relatively recent arrival and therefore the reference to "10 years" in regards to Hickok's death actually meant "about 10 years." So the events could be taking place in 1888 or even 1889. The movie suggests that Sonny was read-up on famous Western figures and so recognized clues to their real identities. He only suspected who they really were. And this was eventually verified as he increasingly discovers the supernatural nature of Refuge. In other words, it wasn't like he instantly recognized these individuals and was 100% sure of their semi-infamous identities based on dime-store novels. Lastly, some complain that the movie supports the questionable idea that shooting people makes you a candidate for eternal life. Actually, it advocates selfless bravery and commitment to justice: Blackjack & his gang proved that they were chronic thugs and a serious threat to others; taking a violent-if-necessary stand against them was the only answer since they were incurable. The best way to stop a bad person with a gun is via a good person with a gun.

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