Friday, October 24, 2008

Appaloosa - Movie Review

APPALOOSA (***1/2) - Starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Spall, Lance Henriksen, Tom Bower and James Gammon.
Directed by Ed Harris.

The classic Western is back, even if we only get one a year. It deserves to stand alongside 3:10 to Yuma, The Assassination of Jesse James, and Open Range as a good movie on its own, and then bonus points for being a good ol'-fashioned cowboy movie. It wasn't that long ago American Outlaws and Texas Rangers about killed the genre.

Ed Harris stars, directs, co-writes, and co-produces in this thing. He even sings a song over the closing credits. He and Viggo plays Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch respectively, gunmen who roam from town to town takin' the law jobs, cleanin' up the place, then movin' on. Seems the town of Appaloosa is a might run over by Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), your typical rich landowning bad guy.

I enjoyed the deepened relationship between Cole and Hitch the most. The looks that say everything, the spare, laconic dialogue. It's hilariously understated. I could see Gary Cooper and Robert Mitchum having just such conversations. I also loved the emphasis on honesty in the old West. If you gave your word, you gave your word.

My one quibble - Renee Zellweger. She was the weak link in Leatherheads and the weak link here. I don't enjoy her as a performer anymore. I would've much rather seen Kate Beckinsale or Molly Parker or Emily Watson or Francis O'Connor or any number of different actresses in this role. Maybe it's the Academy curse. Maybe she hasn't been able to lose the weight from her face since the Bridget Jones sequel, so now when she smiles, her cheeks squish her eyes shut. I don't know what it is.

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