Dawn Rider is a passable and predictable remake of a 1935 John Wayne movie. It never dares to break any boundaries or add real suspense but is a reasonably entertaining way to spend an hour and half. However the point for point remake fails to justify its own existence.
Christian Slater steps into John Wayne’s oversized boots as John Mason; a former ne’er do well who reconnects with his estranged father while on the run from the Law. Slater’s performance is not bad so as much as it is Christian Slater. He is one of those actors that fail to play anybody but themselves. Going into any Slater movie you can rely on the fact that he will be the same wise-cracking smart-ass chewing his way through the plot.
Cincinnati John, as he is known – although Mason always replies with the well-worn line, “I ain’t never been to Cincinnatti,” – has a past with both side of the law and is wanted in connection with the death of a man in Mexico. Mason returns home because he is being pursued by a marshal, a fantastic, far too brief, performance by Donald Sutherland who nobody has told that he is appearing in a B Western. Mason barely has time to drunkenly reconnect with his father before the old man is killed in a botched stage-coach robbery. Vengeance is vowed, of course, and Mason attempts to track down the gang of robbers.
It’s no spoiler to say that the leader of the gang is the brother of the woman, Jill Hennessy that Mason takes an interest in. The movie makes no attempt to build any kind of suspense around this. The plot unfolds completely predictably step by step with all the requisite betrayals and redemptions before building up to the inevitable quick-draw showdown.
Having said all that this is not a terrible movie, it’s just an exemplary piece of the B Western Genre. It doesn’t do anything new or particularly interesting but it will keep you entertained if there is nothing else on TV.