TV on DVD Review: Doc West (2009)

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Onscreen since the tender age of twelve, in the early '70s, half German, half Italian spaghetti western star Terence Hill might have preferred that people call him Trinity in the internationally popular film series but now that he's passed the age of seventy himself, Hill has left Trinity behind to become Minnesota “Doc” West.

Co-directing alongside Giulio Base, the eponymous work released from Lionsgate Home Entertainment is presented as a straight-to-disc American import, which is a far cry from its original intention as the first two installments of a possible Italian television series aimed at families that aired back in Hill's home.

Mixing western action with light humor, the affable and gorgeously executed effort may be a little on the weak side structurally speaking as it abandons a terrifically promising set-up that introduces us to Hill's man-with-a-past former doctor turned cardsharp, the young likable orphan boy he rescues (Benjamin Petry), a sensible, good-natured but realistic sheriff (Paul Sorvino), and a group of thieving villains masquerading as enterprising townsfolk.

As Hill and Base's work gets going, the screenwriters employ several western standby subplots including feuding families and a nice unexpected secret love story a la West Side Story for good measure as well as a daring daylight post office robbery that kick-starts the excitement and sends Hill's protagonist into the neighboring town where the action is set.

Yet while Doc West may have eventually developed into a unique television series filled with character and charm, unfortunately when sliced down into the running time of a feature film, a majority of the boiling conflicts lose their sizzle and begin to fizzle.

This being said, West is still surprisingly far more entertaining than a large number of genre offerings that Lionsgate has released over the past year as a polished, professional western filled with potential in terms of satisfying storylines, strong characters and fascinating enough subplots that make you curious about how it all would've developed had Hill and Base's opus been allowed to continue whether in extended series or even miniseries fashion.

A harmless enough offering that you can share with your older children and young teens given its PG rating that may inadvertently get them interested in seeking out more vintage westerns (whether fueled by spaghetti or Hollywood) given the work's old-fashioned approach, although West is a forgettable albeit well made trifle, it's still a solidly entertaining alternative some of the disappointingly juvenile titles targeting the family market.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.