January 11, 1999 12:00 PM

TNT (Sun., Jan. 10, 8 p.m. ET)

Take away the boots and saddles and six-shooters and what is this TV movie? Basically, a two-hour Twilight Zone episode. But it’s a good Twilight Zone episode.

A gang of bank robbers, led by a thoroughly evil Eric Roberts, gets lost while trying to outrun the law and winds up in a hospitable but strangely quiet town called Refuge. The sheriff (Sam Shepard) is unarmed. Why, the town doesn’t even have a jail. It looks like a perfect target of opportunity for outlaws except for a couple of ominous signs: The sheriff insists that there be no cursing, and the church bell is frighteningly loud. There’s something otherworldly about the place…and then you remember the film’s title.

It’s best not to reveal too many plot details, but western fans have an old-fashioned, well-staged shootout to look forward to. Shepard is perfectly cast as the laconic lawman with an intriguing resemblance to Wild Bill Hickok (not to mention Gary Cooper), and Randy Quaid contributes a droll turn as the town physician. The script gets a bit muddled when it ventures to discuss eternal reward and punishment, but Purgatory is worth passing through.

Bottom Line: Enjoyable meeting of the Old West and the next world

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