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Purgatory

Purgatory title card

Year - 1999
Studio - TNT Original
Stars - Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, Randy Quaid, Peter Stormare, Brad Rowe, Donnie Wahlberg, John David Souther, Amelia Heinle
Director - Uli Edel
Writing Credits - Gordon Dawson
Music - Brad Fiedel

Synopsis

Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts) and his gang of outlaws rob a small town bank and are pursued by a determined posse. One of the bandits is mortally wounded and begs the gang to put him out of his misery. Leo "Sonny" Dillard (Brad Rowe), does so out of compassion. Sonny, who spends much of his time reading dime novels about famous outlaws, is looked down up by the rest of the gang for his lack of toughness.

As the posse approaches, the gang gets lost in a dust storm and ends up traveling through a long mountain tunnel. They emerge to find a beautiful green valley and following a road, ride into a small picturesque town. They are greeted by the Sheriff Forrest (Sam Shepard) who welcomes them warmly to the town of Refuge. They are surprised that he, like the other residents, carries no guns. Sheriff Forrest advises them they can stay as long as they need, but that swearing is not allowed (except in the saloon). The gang learns that the townspeople are determined to not use violence in dealing with conflicts.

Purgatory poster

While Blackjack and his gang plot to take advantage of the "weak" town, Sonny becomes interested in a young lady resident, Rose (Amelia Heinle). He tells her about his dime novel interests, and notes that Sheriff Forrest bears a resemblance to the long dead Wild Bill Hickok. The couple sees some of the outlaws harassing a farmer, who becomes enraged when they destroy his garden, and he angrily kills one of them with a shovel. An old Indian (Saginaw Grant) appears and the farmer, with resigned sadness, follows him into an ancient cemetery. Sonny realizes that the farmer was actually a famous, dead outlaw, Lefty Slade, and that other residents of the town include similarly long-dead outlaws, Doc Holliday (Randy Quaid), Billy the Kid (Donnie Wahlberg), and Jesse James (JD Souther).

Sonny discovers that Rose has a scar around her neck, and she confesses that she was the notorious Betty McCullough, who was hanged for the murder of her abusive father. She explains that Refuge is actually a Purgatory, where sinners are given a last chance to right their lives. Indeed, a stagecoach roars into town and the Coachman (R.G. Armstrong) informs the sheriff that he has passed his eight-year ordeal and that he will move on the following day.

Blackjack and the gang decide to leave Refuge for Mexico, but not until they've destroyed the town and its people. Sonny is determined to fight them, while Hickok, Doc Holliday, and the others are faced with the dilemma of trying to save the town at the risk of losing their souls.

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