Director Jesse V. Johnson makes the type of action thrillers that would’ve allowed him to be a force in the action cinema flicks that flooded theaters in the eighties. Johnson’s latest, “One Ranger,” is a mildly-entertaining thriller that would make the ghost of the Cannon Film Group proud.
Thomas Jane is Alex Tyree, an rugged Texas Ranger tough who is recruited by British intelligence to stop an international terrorist.
Jane’s character would have been played by Chuck Norris or Charles Bronson during his time with Cannon Films. Tyree speaks softly in a rugged Southern drawl. Whether in London or on his home turf, the ranger carries his born swagger like a loaded six-shooter. Thomas Jane proves to have the grit to pull it off.
The film begins with the aftermath of a bank robbery in a Texas territory that just happens to be Ranger Tyree’s jurisdiction.
The ranger has tracked down a local fugitive when the fleeing robbers (led by former IRA member Declan McBride, played by Dean Jagger) come flying through the desert terrain. Two deputies are in pursuit but they’re shot to death by McBride.
In a moment reminiscent of Don Seigel’s “Coogan’s Bluff” the ranger takes his fugitive’s antique rifle and shoots the baddies from his long-distance position on the rocks.
McBride escapes and Tyree receives a visit from the British government who wants him to stop McBride from blowing up London.
There isn’t too much more to the plot than this, the rest of the film is filled with briefings from the head of the department (John Malkovich) and suspects, double-crosses and shootouts.
The film’s screenplay is the standard “stop the terrorists before a bomb goes off in a major city” plot. Throughout the film, the familiarities of the proceedings prevent any major excitement. But it all nevertheless works.
Jesse V. Johnson (a former stuntman) knows how to shoot action, existing as one of the rare modern genre filmmakers that understands what the audience wants to see.
The director’s best works star the great Scott Adkins, as his directing style allows a proper canvas to showcase the talents of the world-class martial artist. Johnson respects action choreography: his films are mostly free of the shaky-cam style that ruins ninety-nine percent of today’s Hollywood action pictures.
For “One Ranger” the camera moves with the action rather than obstructing it. A particular standout is a brutal hand-to-hand battle between Tyree and buff baddie Jakovenko (Jess Liaudin). The scene begins with fists and ends with sledgehammers. The moment is a bruised and bloody highlight.
Dominique Tipper does well as Jennifer Smith, the British agent assigned to Tyree. Their banter is nothing new, but Jane and Tipper have an easy rapport that makes the cliched relationship far easier to swallow.
Continuing his sad decline and apparent quest to become the most insufferable character actor working today, John Malkovich is nothing short of awful.
Sure, the actor is slumming in a film like this one, but since his laughably terrible performance in 1998’s “Rounders,” the once interesting actor has given in to over- (and most times, under-) acting.
Malkovich has only a few scenes and the dialogue between his character and Tyree is good, but the actor performs as if he had just taken a sleeping pill and was fighting the oncoming slumber.
A challenge to viewers is to decipher his accent. The actor is playing a high-level British intelligence operative, but his diction is sometimes hard to make out. A sad performance for an actor who can be excellent.
The screenplay is ultimately bare-bones and certainly isn’t meant for closer scrutiny. This plot’s main issue is, why would British intelligence use a Texas Ranger to catch an international terrorist from Ireland, just because he almost stopped him once? An inherently silly idea, to be sure, but while “One Ranger” is far from existing as one of Jesse V. Johnson’s best, the film is a good watch for Thomas Jane, the scenes between Tyree and Agent Smith and the punchy action.