Western / Family
2019 / 90 minutes
The Legend of 5 Mile Cave begins with a bang, a fleeing cowboy being shot right off his horse by an eagle-eyed sheriff. And it begins with misdirection too: the sheriff looks kind of scary, his posse pretty mean, so are they the heroes? Or should we be rooting for the guy lying at their feet? It doesn’t get any clearer when we cut forward 20 years and see an escaping prisoner evade pursuing guards and their bloodhounds. Again, it seems like we’re supposed to be siding with the bad guy. What’s going on?
The main story is about a young farm boy, Tommy Tilwicky, and his widowed mother, Susan, who are taking in boarders to balance their budget. The first to arrive is the escaped prisoner, though now in a decent set of clothes. He can’t pay much, but he’s willing to help them break in their horses, to get them ready to sell. And he’s also willing to tell stories of the West as it was to a boy who can’t get enough of pulp-fiction Westerns. Those novels don’t get the facts quite right, says the man. And he proceeds to tell Tommy, in bits and pieces, the true story of the infamous “Shooter Green,” a gunslinger infamous for a $200,000 stagecoach holdup in which the gold was never recovered.
Much of the movie is told in flashbacks, Tommy seizing every opportunity he can to hear more about Shooter. We cut back 20 years again to see Shooter Green doing trick shots to earn some money. We get to watch this boastful young man get his comeuppance when a beautiful young lady bets against him, and the flustered Shooter Green misses for the very first time. It’s a cute scene, but had me wondering yet once more, is this film expecting us to root for the criminal?
I needn’t have worried: Legend has us cheering for the right guy all along, and the mystery is how he could seem so bad at the beginning and be a hero at the end.
For a Western, there ain’t much gunplay. Shooter Green does get shot off his horse in the opening scene, and when the stagecoach is held up, three men are quickly shot, however, with little blood seen. There is also a brief bit of gambling, as the trick-shot Shooter is making money off of people betting against him.
And that’s about it. So this isn’t an all-ages family film, but it could be good for everyone 12 and up.
I’ve reviewed a few hundred films, and it was fun coming across one I couldn’t properly compare to anything I’d seen before. The best I can liken it to is one of the better old Disney movies (think Swiss Family Robinson) crossed with one of the better and funnier Hallmark films. I’m not pitching this as a great movie, just as a solid evening’s viewing. It is well-produced and well-acted – kid actors can sometimes ruin things, but the fellow playing Tommy does a decent go of it. It is maybe a teensy bit long, which is why it gets a 7 and not an 8.
Check out the trailer below. You can stream it on Amazon.ca and elsewhere.