There's a moment a little over halfway through [i]Cowboys and Angels[/i] where things seem to start to get better. Not better for those on screen, mind you, as the scene involves lead character Shane absent-mindedly gobbling down a pill whose effects are simple described as "more poweful than E" in a fit of determined self-destruction. At that point, you really start to think the film is going somewhere, and that what started out as a perfectly bland entry in the coming-of-age/dissimilar-roommates-become-friends film sweepstakes is about to take a dark turn and become something much more.
It doesn't, though. The drug trip serves as a bottoming out for Shane, convincing him to give up his life of petty drug running and go back to the more formulaic main plot in time for the inevitable conclusion that any filmgoer could see coming by the thirty-minute marker.
[i]Cowboys & Angels[/i] isn't exactly a bad movie--in fact, it's so pleasant and inoffensive that you may forget you're watching it at all. At the beginning of the film, Shane is a nice but geeky young man who moves into a flat in the big city with Vincent, a flamoyant art student. Shane figures out that Vincent is gay because he dresses like a drunken geisha, and Vincent figures out that Shane isn't because he dresses like Mr. Belvedere. There's light conflict at first (Vincent uses the whole bathroom for his make-up!) but soon the two are getting along, and Vincent plays "Queer Eye" on Shane, dressing him up as a deranged new-wave post-apocalypse warrior in order to impress a girl that we're assured has a great personality, though she's so underdeveloped that we just have to take the character's word for it.
In fact, the whole thing might as well have been called [i]Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Movie[/i] if the rights had been available, because that's how strangely prototypical and desexualized things are. Vincent's audacious fashion sense helps Shane get the girl, pursue his real dreams and quit drug running, the sole interesting sub-plot in the film. Meanwhile, Vincent's sole sexual trysts consist of one quick make-out session with an older man to set up a later plot twist and a hetero coupling with the girl of Shane's eyes, I guess in order for him to reject her later. If it weren't for the swearing, you could mistake this for an Irish after school special.
There's a lot of potential here, mostly in Shane's character, but little of it is reached. There's plenty of coming-of-age trials (an inspirational co-worker dies, Shane comes out of his shell) but it's nothing that every John Hughes movie of the '80s hasn't touched upon, and the only reason it's interesting at all is due to the performance by Michael Legge, a fine talent with an Ewan McGregor-esque grin that almost carries the film by himself.
He can't do all the work, however, and [i]Cowboys & Angels[/i] is too unremarkable and half-hearted that it never really engages. Despite all the development, the characters are still tired stereotypes coasting through tired plot devices in a movie that would have looked dated if it had come out twenty years ago. Not awful by any means, just absolutely nothing here you haven't seen before.