But not this movie. Nope. Not in anything resembling the traditional sense. I'm not familiar with too many other '70s grindhouse features that has dialogue like this. Jack McKee (Jeff Bridges) and Cecil Colson (Sam Waterston) are a pair of bored cattle rustlers who are driven in their actions by avoiding boredom. When Cecil asks his partner why he would undertake a risky haul he simply replies that he wants to stay awake. Their exchanges throughout the movie at times sound like some weird hybrid of Thomas Pynchon and Kurt Vonnegut. Though McGuane, best known as a novelist and fly fisher, has a language all his own.
Ideas too. Cecil, an American Indian, gets a lecture from his father about a widespread problem in the local parts: pickup truck cults.
I've seen more of this state's poor cowboys, miners, railroaders and Indians go broke buyin' pickup trucks. The poor people of this state are dope fiends for pickup trucks. As soon's they get ten cents ahead they trade in on a new pickup truck. The families, homesteads, schools, hospitals and happiness of Montana have been sold down the river to buy pickup trucks!... And there's a sickness here worse than alcohol and dope. It is the pickup truck death! And there's no cure in sight.
Mcguane's themes are common. Progress is not progress. The individualism of the West is being eroded - The ranch owner and his wife used to be be in the beauty parlor business ("Don't you ever miss Schenectady?"). There's a quick shot of a closed down drive-in theater. Capitalism is a toxicity. The "normal life" is perhaps a selling out of one's identity. When Jack returns home, his parents have contrived to have his ex girlfriend there, hoping he'll reconsider and settle down. Instead, Jack trashes the house and screams at them all, wanting none of their "medicated" existence. McGuane is the one yelling against America, of course.
The cast is great. Slim Pickens does his unique thing as a cattle detective (and former horse thief). He's laid back to the point of non-existence, seemingly in no hurry to catch the rustlers. His recounting of a dream of ancient Egypt is one of his several priceless bits. Clifton James and Elizabeth Ashley are John and Cora Brown, the wealthy ranchers. They too are bored as hell. Harry Dean Stanton plays one of their ranch hands, Burt, who is slow witted but awfully sweet. Bridges, whose Jack is so disaffected his face registers ennui even during a wild outdoor sex scene, is fine and Waterston is likewise in an atypical role. It's quite jarring to see him play such a ruffian after years of watching his stern D.A. on Law & Order. Jimmy Buffet and his band play "Livingston Saturday Night" in bar. This was the first of at least two times he's done this in a movie (see also FM).
RANCHO DELUXE won't be everyone's cuppa, but for those seeking something a few degrees to the left of Philip Anschutz, a grin or two is very likely.