By J. Roger Wood

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Take three good actresses, and one who's working really hard, put them in chaps, cowboy hats and give them really horrendous dialogue and what's left is "Bad Girls"

"Bad Girls," staring Madeleine Stowe ("The Last of the Mohicans"), Mary Stuart Masterson ("Benny and Joon"), Andie MacDowell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") and Drew Barrymore ("E.T. The Extra Terrestrial"), marks director Jonathan Kaplan's ("Unlawful Entry", "The Accused") turn at the en vogue Hollywood western. Balking at only one part of the traditional storyline, Kaplan casts four women, the result sort of a "Designing Women," meets the Old West.

With feelings of dissatisfaction and revenge, the foursome leave a life of whoring to follow the lure of the West's promise of land and opportunity. Upon leaving the brothel, Cody Zamora (Stowe) shoots one of the community's upstanding citizens who was getting violent with Anita Crown (Masterson).

Fugitives from the moral law of Echo City, Colorado and bound for the Oregon Territory, the four must claim Zamora's small fortune at a bank in Texas, but are derailed by bankrobbers led by Kid Jarret (James Russo), Zamora's former fellow outlaw and lover.

The stage is set for problems with one of the territory's most reknowned outlaws. Kaplan tells the same old tale of dreams, revenge and good-versus-evil, only with females playing the parts of the heroes. Nothing original, just good 'ol-fashioned western shoot-'em-up fun.

Unfortunately, this isn't the epic or the moral tale that others of the recent westerns have hoped to be. With a screenplay that often falters and a group of actors who are cast way, way below their abilities, nothing saves "Bad Girls" from being little more than a gender away from clich‚.

At times, there are near fresh ideas on the screen about women's property rights and barbed wire changing the face of the West, but these issues, which would have set the film apart from other westerns, are never explored, and the story fades into six-shooter obscurity.

Stowe, Masterson and MacDowell all deliver decent performances although none will benefit in any way but monetarily from this little stint into the Old West. Barrymore cannot help but benefit by playing someone over the age of 12, and her character's penchant for the drink made for a bitter laugh or two, considering her past real-life problems with the fire water.

In the end, the inevitable gun fight leaves the "Bad Girls" standing as the winners and this movie as one of the first casualties of the year, falling victim to an original premise gone bored. As one of the cowgirls comments at the end, "We ain't heroes," and they certainly are not. These "Bad Girls" don't offer much of a different perspective from any of their bad-boy predecessors.

"Bad Girls," is currently playing at Century Park 12 Theaters (620-0750) and Cineplex Odeon El Dorado Cinemas (745-6241). Read Next Article