Walker, Texas Ranger – The Complete Third Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Created by
Christopher Canaan
Leslie Greif
Paul Haggis

Cast:
Chuck Norris … Cordell “Cord” Walker
Clarence Gilyard, Jr. … James “Jimmy” Trivette
Sheree J. Wilson … Asst. D.A. Alex Cahill
Noble Willingham … C.D. Parker


The Show:

For Chuck Norris fans, Walker, Texas Ranger is a bit of a blessing and a curse. First off, the series is a bit of a blight on the career of Chuck Norris; because to be honest the show sullied a lot of the tough guy credibility of its hero, by putting him in ham-fisted adventures, complete with absolutely ridiculous scenarios. Especially in the light of modern, action-oriented TV sagas such as 24 or The Shield, Walker seems overtly antiquated and downright silly at times. On the other hand, taking in the series can also turn out to be the guiltiest of pleasures if you watch the show in the correct light, as the series’ mythmaking of the character of Walker, and the small scale 80’s action can certainly be enjoyed, even though it comes with a twinge of shame.

Those looking for the drama of The Sopranos or even Law and Order would probably do best by not looking for it during the adventures of Texas Rangers Cordell Walker (Chuck Norris) and his partner Jimmy Trivette (Clarence Gilyard, Jr.). Filled with scores of action movie clichés, goofy comedy, mediocre production values, and an over-reliance on the thespian talent of Chuck Norris, Walker, Texas Ranger has the ability to come off as mundane and thick-headed, pounding you down with its morality lessons in the same way Chuck Norris does with his round house kicks. Even for Chuck fans, episodes can seem too simplistic or even worse, such as is the case with the installment “Collision Course,” not focus enough on Walker himself.

Then again, when viewed in the proper way, Walker, Texas Ranger can actually manage to be pretty rousing. While it may not exactly be art, there’s something refreshing about the straight-forward plots and Karate-filled antics, as the series is free of the complicated storylines and mythology of much of modern serialized TV. Fans of Norris’ films are even treated to the occasional moment of homage, getting to relive some of the star’s best moments of big screen. The top instance from this third season happens in the installment “Deep Cover,” in which Norris’ Walker does a double footed drop kick through a car windshield to stop the bad guy, reproducing the best stunt from the 1978 Norris vehicle Good Guys Wear Black.

Season 3’s biggest asset, besides the heavy doses of Karate, is the plethora of guest stars by Cult, 80’s Action, and B-Movie actors which show up to either try and help, or take down the legendary Texas Ranger. I was especially excited to see Richard Chaves, who played Poncho in one of my personal favorites, Predator, as an F.B.I. Agent helping Walker to track down a kidnapper in an episode entitled “Deadline”. Another fun cameo comes from Don Swayze, as an oil worker joining in to stop a group of terrorists from blowing up a platform full of men and one bad ass Texas Ranger.

On the flip side, they say that a hero is only as good as his villain, and if that is the case, then Walker is quite the hero this season. Heavies lining up to get kicked in the face within these 26 episodes include Ed O’Ross (Red Heat, Action Jackson), Marc Macaulay (Passenger 57), Andrew Divoff (Wishmaster, Another 48 Hrs.), Robert Englund (A Nightmare of Elm Street), Billy Drago (The Untouchables, Delta Force 2), Michael Parks (Kill Bill, From Dusk Till Dawn) and John Vernon (Animal House). It’s tough to even pick out which of these villains is even the vilest, as each is going at about 120 miles an hour in their collision course with Walker.

Having such a terrific pedigree for your baddies makes for some exciting episodes, most notably “The Avenger,” which may actually be the best Walker episode I’ve ever seen. In the installment Michael Parks plays an arms dealer named Caleb Hooks, who kidnaps Walker after the Ranger had killed his brother in a bust gone bad. In the episode, Hooks captures Walker and then makes him fight for his life in a series of elaborate combat trials against a series of deadly assassins, Game of Death-style. Norris’ fight scenes in this episode are definitely the best and most brutal of the season, as Walker faces down opponents in a deadly hand to hand fight in the dark, an obstacle course complete with Samurai swords and a pit of spikes, a death-match within an electrified cage, and finally a ghost town set, one on one, tomahawk/knife duel between Hooks and Walker. Parks, who fought with Norris before in the Action flick The Hitman, chews the scenery like nobody’s business here, and makes for an impressive opponent for Walker both physically and psychologically.

The season’s most bizarre episode is without a doubt “Evil in the Night,” in which a construction company unearths an Indian burial ground, and the ghosts, lead by an evil medicine man (Billy Drago) start killing off innocent people. This is an absolutely ridiculous episode, full of flashbacks, as Drago’s Running Wolf tries to take Walker out of the equation by haunting him with the sins of his past. Absolutely insane from beginning to end, it’s tough to applaud the episode for stretching out or condemning it for being asinine.

Still, the series’ simple action formula is quite endearing and keeps the show fun once it really gets going. While Norris will never win an award for his acting, the old pro gets in some decent scenes throughout the season, especially in “Final Justice,” where he finally faces down with the man who killed his parents, Clint Murdock (John Vernon). It’s also easy to like the light comedy of Walker’s scenes with Trivette, especially a “Good Cop, Bad Cop” routine that really gets an inmate worked up in “Deadline”, and an in-joke laced opening to “The Moscow Connection” in which Trivette discusses a great new book he’s reading by an author Walker has never heard of before; some guy named Chuck Norris.

Somehow, despite its very obvious flaws Walker, Texas Ranger remains a fun-filled throwback to 80’s Action. Norris’ screen charisma is about on par with his Feature film performances and we never get too weighed down in lofty plot devices. While it’s not for everybody, Walker, Texas Ranger – The Complete Third Season is a butt-kicking good time, with great villains and an unstoppable hero; which is sometimes all you need.


The DVD:

The Video
Unfortunately, CBS and Paramount didn’t do much to clean the show up, as the print on these discs is pretty shoddy. Free of debris, the show nevertheless looks pretty shabby, making it look a little more dated than it probably has to. The show is presented in fullscreen with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds fine for the most part. The audio is an improvement over the picture quality of the DVD’s but not much more.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Previews – You get previews for other CBS TV Series.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for
Walker, Texas Ranger: The Complete Third Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

7
THE VIDEO

5
THE AUDIO

6.5
THE EXTRAS

1
REPLAY VALUE

7.5
OVERALL
5.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)