El Diablo [1990]

When a teenage schoolgirl is kidnapped by Mexican bandit El Diablo (Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Beltran), her clumsy, awkward schoolteacher Billy Ray Smith (Anthony Edwards) sets out to save her. The would-be hero in this offbeat Western teams up with crotchety veteran gunslinger Van Leek (Louis Gossett Jr.), who helps him form an unlikely posse to rescue Smith's damsel in distress. What sets this low-key, made-for-cable production apart from numerous other Westerns is its humorously skewed take on the myths and legends of the Old West, as it not only deconstructs Hollywood's romanticized view of the genre but Billy Ray's veneration of a mythical gunfighter named Kid Durango, whose literary adventures he regularly reads to his students. Gossett is wonderfully droll as unscrupulous six slinger Van Leek, whose motives are always suspect; Edwards is charming as the bumbling teacher; and the supporting cast--which includes Branscombe Richmond (Renegade), Miguel Sandoval (Get Shorty), and John Glover (Brimstone)--imbue life into their quirky gun-for-hire roles. Indeed the best aspect of El Diablo is the way in which many of its characters' fa├žades are gradually revealed. The very tongue-in-cheek screenplay was coauthored by Halloween director John Carpenter. --Bryan Reeseman

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