Released in 2004, Renegade was a very loose adaptation the French/Belgian comic book series Blueberry, and it starred Vincent Cassel as a U.S. Marshal who was partly raised by Native Americans. The cast also includes Michael Madsen, Juliette Lewis and Ernest Borgnine.
The classic comics were illustrated by Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius, so adapting the striking visual style established in the books to the big screen was always going to be a challenge, especially for a French production. Surprisingly, the film's budget was quite high and its straight-to-DVD release in the U.S. hardly earned it much attention. Critically, it wasn't particularly well received outside of French-speaking countries, or even back home, but it got some praise here and there for at least trying something a bit different with the Western genre.
Indeed, this isn't your typical Spaghetti Western, especially by the time you get to the film's trippy third act. And although it's pretty much nothing like the comics both in terms of tone and visuals, it's shot with enough flair and creativity that you can tell it was based on something pretty unique and the final burst of CG madness is clearly a homage to Moebius' more surreal works.
There is something refreshing about how unusual this movie is. The plot centers around Mike Donovan/Blueberry (Cassel) and his nemesis Wallace Sebastian Blount (Madsen), who once got a prostitute killed in front of him, as they make their way towards a mountain where they both take part in a shamanic ritual that might save or take away their lives. Along the way, Donovan meets Maria Sullivan (Lewis) who wants revenge for her father (played by Geoffrey Lewis) after he is killed by Blount.
It's a solid cast but, unfortunately, the actors often struggle with an occasionally weak script and, while Vincent Cassel looks the part, he doesn't really command the screen as much as you'd expect him to. For all its visual bells and whistles, Renegade has some serious pacing issues and its bold moves towards the end are undermined by a rather dull second act. Furthermore, as inventive as its ending may be, it'll likely leave you more confused than impressed.
Renegade won't be for everyone. Those expecting a faithful adaptation of the comics, a more traditional Western or an action-packed adventure will be disappointed but if you're up for something a bit weirder and more experimental, this is worth trying once.
Uneven yet intriguing flop.