Jack McKee (Jeff Bridges) and Cecil Colson (Sam Waterston) are two cattle rustlers in Montana, but haven't graduated to stealing whole herds and prefer to go about their crime one cow or bull at a time. Really, they're simply stealing enough to get by, pay their rent, and live the easygoing life they think they deserve, with dreams of owning their own ranch one day, not that what they're up to is conducive to success in that area. Today they kill one of the cows of blowhard cattle baron John Brown (Clifton James), cut it up with a chainsaw, and proceed to sell bits to the locals - but Brown is not happy, not happy at all...
Rancho Deluxe is one of those comedies that, so it seems, you either find quirkily amusing or it leaves you absolutely cold. If you take a step back to regard the adventures of Jack and Cecil then you could be forgiven for not finding them very funny at all, as both characters are self-centred to a fault, and blase about whose toes they tread on during their path to what they hope is financial success. On the other hand, there are some pretty funny lines and situations in the film which if you're finding yourself charmed by can translate into cheering your mood as the story meanders towards its conclusion.
It's just that everyone in the film has an offputting personality, not that every comedy has to feature characters the audience is going to like especially, as some of the most successful black comedies have nothing of the kind, but frankly there are some very strange people here who writer Thomas McGuane evidently believes will win their way to your heart with their spectrum of eccentricity. Yet even then, it all operates at such a remove, perhaps ironic, that you never feel close to any of them as for a start Jack and Cecil are terminally, for the screenplay, wrapped up in themselves and their adversaries are little better, leaving you pondering that if you don't like the roguish duo then who are you supposed to like in this?
The plot comes across as weirdly indistinct, this in spite of it not being especially complicated, so you find your attention being held not by the allure of narrative audacity, but because you're hoping for another strange gag or comic misdirection. It's not that the cast are underqualified for this, as there is no shortage of cult stars here, from Slim Pickens as a ranch detective whose apparent physical infirmity is revealed to be easily forgotten once he's on the trail of the rustlers, to Patti D'Arbanville as one of two sisters who Jack and Cecil pal around with - she gets a sex scene with Bridges that turns odd when he takes advantage of her orgasm to slip on a dog mask.
See what I mean? It's not exactly a weirdo masterpiece, but it is curious in its choices, as if appealing to a very specific section of the potential audience. Also showing up are two ranch hands played by Harry Dean Stanton and Richard Bright, both of whom think they are cleverer than they are, with Stanton's Curt falling for the sleuth's niece (Charlene Dallas, whose acting career was mysteriously shortlived considering the impression she makes here) who beguiles him with her naivety, although we're not so sure as she certainly knows how to string him along with a mixture of gamboling in the forest and blowjobs. We keep returning to the two friends, however, as their relationship is portrayed as close enough to make them admirable in the form of the classic Western which Rancho Deluxe seeks to take apart piece by piece. Well, it was different. Music by Jimmy Buffet (spot Warren Oates in his band, incidentally).
American director who worked closely with his wife Eleanor Perry to create some curious work throughout the sixties: David and Lisa, Ladybug Ladybug, The Swimmer, Last Summer and Diary of a Mad Housewife.