Once upon a time, the Western genre was king. Everyone wanted to make an oater and everyone wanted to be in one. Cowboys, Indians, shootouts, the cavalry and other tales of the life in the western frontier of the United States. But then, they became less popular and are now a rarity. The last great western was "Unforgiven" back in 1992 with Clint Eastwood.


There have been other attempts, 2016's "The Magnificent Seven" was a nice remake of an old classic as was 2010's "True Grit". 2013's "The Lone Ranger" was a disaster and "A Million Ways to Die in the West" was a bust. Quentin Tarantino's 2015 "The Hateful Eight" hit the mark as did the little seen "Slow West" and "The Duel". But we aren't getting many good original western stories.


Director Timothy Woodward seems determined to try and change things and has released his second western in as many years; his first was 2016's "Traded" and now with "Hickok". Once again, he got hold of a credible story and then....

For some reason he has decided the Trace Adkins is the greatest actor on the planet, or at least the best he can afford to get for two cents. As he did in "Traded", he tries to get Adkins to act, which is much harder than it looks I'm afraid.


Once again he casts Kris Kristofferson with Adkins and brings in Bruce Dern (whom he cast in "American Violence") in small roles. He totally miscasts Luke Hemsworth as the titular character Wild Bill Hickok. This is a crude attempt to mix a modern speaking Hemsworth interacting with an old fashioned Kristofferson and slow-droll Adkins. It's like they are from three different planets.


The story uniquely picks up Hickok's life after the Civil War when he wanders into Abilene Texas where he will become the town marshal. The Mayor George Knox (Kristofferson) hires him to clean up the town that is becoming polluted with the shenanigans of Phil Poe (Adkins). Stop! In reality the guys name was Phil Coe and he did want Hickok dead!


The story goes on to tell how Hickok and murderous gunslinger John Wesley Harding (Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau) became somewhat close with a form of mutual respect. In fact a great deal of the film is historically accurate, however the performances are stiff and the styles clash. The only ones who seemed fairly at ease with their role was Dern and Lyman-Mersereau.


The story get muddled when there is an attempt to make a woman named Mattie (Cameron Richardson) the reason fro the rift between Poe and Hickok. (It was a matter of public decency concerning a sign on the salon that caused the friction.)


Watching Adkins recite lines is painful. Listening to Hemsworth speaking in 21st century lingo is baffling. Kristofferson is as stiff as a board. Dern's screen time is far to brief.


"Hickok" takes a perfectly good old west character, in a perfect good period in his life and assigns the wrong talent and obviously wrong director to helm it. Good for watching for loose historical references, but that's it!   -- GEOFF BURTON