Despite the somewhat brutal events in the prologue, you're going to feel like you're watching a conventional television western. Tame, lame, with little of the same from the original, "The Return of Josey Wales" ranks as an uninspired sequel. Repeated viewings of the Eastwood original allow you to appreciate its perfection. Eastwood did a marvelous job when he condensed the entire Civil War in the prologue after Union sympathizers slaughtered Josey’s wife and son, and later he joined Bloody Bill Anderson. "Return" doesn't raise the stakes, boasts few surprises, breaks no new ground, and doesn't leave you wanting more. Character actor Michael Parks—an outstanding thespian in his own right—replaced Clint Eastwood. Indeed, some resemblance appears between the two, and Parks looks persuasively authentic in his black sombrero, white shirt, and dark britches. Aside from preserving Josey's tobacco spitting routine, Park's Josey Wales isn't as interesting as Eastwood's character. He has no love interest in this film, and he doesn’t have any memorable showdown scenes. Parks packs one revolver in a standard, low-slung, right-sided holster, like a prime-time, TV cowboy, and wields an occasional Winchester. Eastwood's Josey Wales armed himself to the teeth with as many as four revolvers. Eastwood knew how to make an entrance, whereas Parks ambles into and out of scenes as if by accident without a trace of charisma. He mumbles in his dialogue scenes like Marlon Brando. Occasionally, he says something insightful.
As director, Parks stages the western shenanigans without fanfare. Watching it once is probably more than enough. I've seen it several times for this review. You'll have to wait patiently about 20 minutes for the first gunfight. The gunfight is minor like something out of a Randolph Scott western. Rafael Campos is the only other recognizable cast member. Campos gives the best performance as a liquor-loving vaquero. Everybody else, even in speaking parts, looks and sounds like amateurs. Some of the male extras wear atrocious hats that resemble party favors instead of Stetsons. Basically, like Clint Eastwood's "The Outlaw Josey Wales, "The Return of Josey Wales" has a savage prologue involving a heinous atrocity. The hero's extended family of friends suffers at the hands of the slimy villains. "The Return of Josey Wales" doesn't deliver an eye for an eye western with an icy-cool looking hero. Parks can be heroic. Happily, he does handle himself acceptably in the first shoot-out both on foot as well as horseback. Appropriately enough, the villains—Mexican Rurales who scalp Indians for the bounty--are unrepentant devils.
Josey Wales desired better than this grubby little western delivered.