The Cowboy Way
I’m not a city slicker by any means as I’ve lived in the same small town my entire life. I also don’t really identify with the small town lifestyle either (and certainly not the cowboy way). On the other hand, I was also a big fan of 24 and will watch pretty much anything Kiefer Sutherland is in. I’m also a pretty big fan of action comedies (and most comedies in general). I wasn’t sure if I would like The Cowboy Way or not, there were things going for it in both positive and negative ways (including the movie’s mostly negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes). Ultimately, my thoughts on it were pretty much middle-of-the-road. The Cowboy Way is a decent enough “comedy” (and worthy of more than a 21% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) but isn’t funny enough to be worthy of a blanket recommendation for comedy fans.
The Cowboy Way is a pretty typical action comedy about cowboys heading to a big city where things are much more complicated, fast-paced, and noisy than they are used to. Sonny Gilstrap (Kiefer Sutherland) and Pepper Lewis (Woody Harrelson) are former friends who used to be rodeo stars together until Pepper blew off the state championship and ruined their relationship. When Sonny finds out that their friend Nacho Salazar headed out to New York City a week or so ago to pay for his illegal immigrant daughter’s transportation to America and hasn’t returned, he worriedly recruits Pepper. The two of them head from New Mexico to the Big Apple in search of Nacho, coming across a world that’s completely foreign to them.
The Cowboy Way is highly inconsistent, especially in terms of the comedy. This is a movie that has two really good scenes (a comedic one that takes place at the Waldorf and the big action-filled conclusion to the film) and a whole lot of mediocrity (at best) in between. Most of the rest of the attempts at humor didn’t really work for me but as I wrote earlier, I’m not really a “country” guy. The Cowboy Way does have two charismatic leads (with a great assist by Ernie Hudson in a supporting role as well), though Kiefer Sutherland’s character is a bit of a sourpuss as the “straight man.” It’s not a knock on Sutherland, I just don’t think he was given anything funny to work with. Harrelson is given the better comedic material, though he is also saddled with a pretty racist, unfunny, and thankfully short-lived bit as “Big Chief” in pursuit of “Naked Paleface Lady.” Overall though, The Cowboy Way is not as funny as I was hoping it would be. There’s some action to make up for the doldrums when the comedy isn’t working but this is ultimately a middle-of-the-road action comedy at best. There’s nothing horribly wrong with The Cowboy Way, I just wish it were a bit funnier. 3/5
The Net/The Net 2.0 Double Feature
I had never seen The Net before and knew that it is often mocked for its unrealistic hacking and preposterous plot but as an early “netizen” (I believe I’ve been online for over 25 years at this point) and connoisseur of cheesy movies, I figured it was still going to be worth watching. The film definitely has its flaws and is certainly quite dated but my assumption was still ultimately correct. The Net is not a “good” movie from a quality standpoint but it is a fun one. It’s also one of the few movies I can think of that is actually more realistic nowadays than when it actually came out, thanks to people voluntarily handing out all of their information to Facebook and the like. It’s honestly not that far-fetched in 2021 that tech companies or criminals would go to the sorts of lengths presented in this movie to make some money. If The Net 3.0 ever gets made (it almost certainly never will), all the bad guys would have to do to “disappear” the protagonist would be to look at their Facebook page.
The Net stars Sandra Bullock as Angela Bennett, one of the least likely computer hackers/security experts to ever grace the movie screens (she’s fine in her role, just not very believable in it). Angela is sent a mysterious web site that allows people to access government sites, databases, etc. by clicking a pi symbol in the bottom corner of a page. Despite another computer expert she knows dying in a plane accident while trying to meet her, she still decides to go on her already-planned vacation to Mexico. There, she is charmed but eventually kidnapped by a British criminal (played by Jeremy Northam) who is clearly part of this conspiracy. She gets away from them but suddenly finds that she is now supposedly a “Ruth Marx” with her real identity completely stolen. Complicating things even more, phony arrest warrants are out for her new “identity.” Angela must find a way to put an end to this conspiracy and reclaim her real identity.
The Net was a reasonably big hit when it first came out but at this point, pretty much nobody is talking about it (likely due to how outdated it is). Most of my thoughts on this film are positive (but hard to describe) but I do have some smaller issues with it as well. The first is that I wish a film called The Net would have actually took place a bit more on the actual internet than it does (I wanted to see more of that glorious mid ’90s web), though of course this was back in a time before Searching and films like that that proved movies that take place heavily on computer screens could still be compelling. Back in the ’90s, spending time on computer screens was considered boring and done as sparingly as possible. The Net is pretty much just a thriller with a slight computer-related theme to it, but it’s still a good one. While I thought Sandra Bullock was good in her role and Jeremy Northam is a decent enough villain, I was not a fan of Dennis Miller at all. Thankfully it’s a pretty brief role but he was clearly hired to bring a bit of comedy to the proceedings and failed miserably. While I don’t think he was given a lot to work with, I’m also pretty sure I didn’t laugh a single time he was on the screen. His role could have been cut out completely and nothing would have been lost.
Otherwise though, The Net is a perfectly capable tech thriller (a genre I’ve been watching a lot lately from Mr. Robot to Devs). There’s a decent amount of action, the plot is interesting enough, and Bullock is very good. It isn’t amazing in any way, shape, or form but if you can get past the unrealistic aspects of the film, it’s a pretty fun thriller. 3/5
The Net 2.0
Before watching The Net 2.0, I read the plot description and it sounded so similar to the original that I almost felt like skipping it. It just sounded like a retread of the original but set about ten years later. Alas, it is a bit more different from The Net than I thought it was going to be but still one of the most pointless sequels I’ve ever seen. I’m usually fine with franchises cranking out as many sequels, prequels, remakes, etc. as they want as I find it easy enough to ignore the crap and can then enjoy the good ones this franchising creates. Even I think The Net 2.0 was a complete waste of time and money, not because it’s atrociously bad but because it’s so boring and pointless (but still ever so slightly better than I was expecting).
Honestly, based on the look and feel of this film, if it weren’t for the fact that The Net actually already had a short-lived TV series in 1998 before this sequel, I would have thought this was meant to be a TV pilot that got turned into a straight-to-DVD release. Stylistically at least, it sure looks a lot like Alias, 24, Prison Break, and the other TV thrillers of the early-to-mid ’00s to me (just a whole lot worse than those awesome series). Directed by the son of the director of the original film, The Net 2.0 takes the basic concept of the original and changes it a bit. Protagonist Hope Cassidy (Nikki DeLoach) is offered and takes a lucrative job in Istanbul. However, when she shows up in the country she finds out her identity has been stolen. She is also wanted for multiple murders and the theft of millions of dollars. The film is primarily played out while Hope is in jail and trying to convince the authorities that it is all just a misunderstanding as she recounts her past few days.
The biggest sin The Net 2.0 commits is just being too boring. The plot actually takes a few interesting twists and turns but they’re overshadowing by the sheer boredom of the proceedings. It doesn’t help that the lead actress puts on an extremely wooden performance and was probably cast more for her looks than her acting talent (though considering she’s still getting steady work to this day I’m guessing she’s improved considerably from this). The worst thing is this isn’t even a “so bad, it’s good” kind of movie, it’s more of the boringly mediocre variety which is pretty much one of the worst things a film can be. However, I doubt anyone interested in this Blu-ray set is really in it for The Net 2.0 in the first place. The original is likely all that anyone purchasing this release cares about. Just think of this as a boring throw-in and only watch it if you truly have nothing else to watch. 2/5
Video Quality and Conclusion
The Cowboy Way appears to be yet another title receiving its Blu-ray debut via Mill Creek Entertainment. As a deep catalog title, not a lot of tender loving care has been put into this release (as usual for Mill Creek it’s meant to be a budget title). Don’t expect amazing picture quality as there’s some pretty bad-looking scenes (mostly night ones) from time to time. Most of the rest of the scenes look decent but this release will never blow you away with the video quality. It’s just an acceptable (but relatively small) upgrade from what the DVD presumably looks like.
The Net/The Net 2.0 Double Feature is receiving mixed to flat-out bad reviews for its video quality but I honestly didn’t really notice anything that significantly bad about it. Sure it’s not a gorgeous looking Blu-ray release (and the “sequel” looks worse than the first, likely due to the lower budget) but I thought it was decent enough. I usually mention that I’m not the best judge of video quality though as I don’t pick up on a lot of the subtleties that make films look great or terrible on the format (and I find things like film grain, which most prefer to have, to be almost a detriment). I generally know what looks good or bad, I just don’t know how to describe why. The Net is okay but it does have a Sony Choice Collection BD-R release that supposedly looks much better (but it also costs almost three times as much). The Net 2.0 is new to the format but I’m sure very few people care. The decision on whether or not to purchase this release should be relatively easy. If you care more about video quality than value, get the Sony release (as long as you don’t care about The Net 2.0 of course). Otherwise, this isn’t that horrible of a release and it’s currently selling for just $8.99 on Amazon if you don’t need things to look perfect.
While none of these three titles look amazing on Blu-ray (I think The Net looks decent but it does have a superior release from a few years ago), I do think two of the three films are good enough to recommend to at least some viewers. The Net is a fun thriller, The Cowboy Way isn’t quite as funny as I was hoping for but it’s still decent enough, and The Net 2.0 is just completely pointless (but somehow slightly better than I thought it would be).
The Cowboy Way and The Net/The Net 2.0 Double Feature were released on Blu-ray on February 16, 2021.
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copies of The Cowboy Way and The Net/The Net 2.0 Double Feature used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.