Purgatory [1999]

Purgatory is a down-and-dirty Western with a twist The Twilight Zone's Rod Serling would have loved. A band of 19th-century desperadoes, led by the monstrous Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts), takes a wrong turn while fleeing a posse and rides into an otherworldly, off-the-map town called Refuge. Sedate, almost repressed, and guarded by an unarmed sheriff (Sam Shepard), Refuge is a weird haven of hospitality with no jail, a literate shopkeeper (J.D. Souther), an erudite dandy of a doctor (Randy Quaid), a restless deputy (Donnie Wahlberg), and a beautiful young woman (Amelia Heinle) with no apparent family. In short order, Blackjack figures Refuge is his for the plundering. But the youngest of his gang, the innocent Sonny (Brad Rowe), slowly realizes the town's residents are, in fact, dead legends of the American West--Wild Bill Hickok (Shepard), Doc Holliday (Quaid), Jesse James (Souther), among others--spending a violence-free interim before being taken to Heaven (or Hell if they fail). A purely fun if slightly hokey piece of fanciful adventure, Purgatory's colorful cast plays the whole thing straight and gives this made-for-cable film (directed by Uli Edel of Last Exit to Brooklyn) some exciting, six-gun grit and emotional authenticity. --Tom Keogh

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