Film: Broken Trail

Broken Trail is a made-for-TV movie directed by Walter Hill and first broadcast in 2006 on AMC. It is, to a large extent, a vehicle for Robert Duvall, who gets to play his favorite role, that of the grizzled, world-weary but honorable cowboy. The film is thus considered part of Duvall's informal Western trilogy, whose first two instalments were Lonesome Dove and the Kevin Costner-directed feature movie Open Range.

The story takes place in 1898. Duvall, as old rogue Print Ritter, and Thomas Haden Church, as his nephew Tom Harte, are driving Oregon ponies to Wyoming, where they are going to be sold to the British army. On their way, they come across five young Chinese women who have been sold into prostitution and are being taken to their new owner, a ruthless madam in a mining town. Ritter and Harte rescue the women from their sordid fate and decide to take them to safety.

Contains examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die
  • Badass Grandpa: Print Ritter
  • Big Damn Heroes: A couple times. Thomas Church is in all of them, and on one occasion shoots off a man's thumbs.
  • Cattle Drive: With horses rather than cattle, but apart from that the trope is played straight.
  • Chinese Language
  • Chinese Launderer: Lung Hay.
  • Cowboy: Ritter and Harte.
  • Driven to Suicide: Number Four gets raped once too many.
  • Fat Bastard: "Big Rump" Kate provides a female example. Dear God, does she ever.
  • Four Is Death: Because the cowboys can't pronounce the women's real names, they name them "Number One" to "Number Five". When the women realize this, "Number Four" objects to being given an unlucky number for a name. One of the other women eventually accepts to be "Number Four", and she does so because she fully expects a tragic fate to befall her, which indeed it does.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Nola.
    • Averted by "Big Rump" Kate, the ruthless head prostitute who originally bought the Chinese girls. A Chinese local assures the heroes it would be kinder to just go ahead and slit the girls' throats rather than leave them in the same town as Kate.
  • Meaningful Name: Likely unintentional. "Ritter," the main character's surname, is the German term for "knight."
  • Rape as Drama
  • Scenery Porn: The camera can't get enough of the American West's wide-open vistas.
  • The Sheriff: Once, in passing. He doesn't do much.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue