Appaloosa

2009-02-16 09:06
 
Appaloosa


What it's about:

Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are a pair of skilled gunmen who work as marshals for hire in the 1880s American Wild West. A group of men from the small town of Appaloosa employ them to keep the peace after the town is terrorised by brutal rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). At first things appear straightforward, but with the appearance of pretty widow Allison French (Renée Zellweger), a rivalry starts to develop which threatens the town’s fragile peace.

What we thought of it:

Ed Harris is a man’s man – he has played everything from astronauts to crazy artist Jackson Pollock, and imbued all of them with his steely gaze, his manly jaw, and his dominating screen presence. This time Harris directs as well as stars, and Appaloosa comes across as a labour of love – a well crafted story set in the colourful old west.

It’s not a new concept by any means, but it subtly updates some of the classic western conventions to keep it totally believable. The people are totally real and the violence is quick, shocking and brutal. Delicate politics mingle with bloodshed, and there is plenty of it – Appaloosa is a violent film, and should satisfy all fans of the genre in that respect, as well as those looking for compelling drama.

The duo of Virgil and Everett are the heart of the film. Headstrong Virgil is the leader, yet totally reliant on the reticent Everett as his sense of reason. Harris is fantastic as usual, painting a strong, principled man with many flaws. His naïve attempts at wooing and etiquette show the gentle person behind the cold blooded killer – the hurt and dismay he experiences navigating the unfamiliar terrain of romance are as real as the bodies that pile up around him.

Mortensen shows his versatility and subtlety as Everett – quiet, yet thoughtful and educated, he is the polar opposite to the sometimes verbose Virgil. Mortensen slips into the role like a hand into a glove, giving another excellent performance.

The cast is rounded out by Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons, both of whom make their characters as whole as possible against the dramatic story. There are also a lot of excellent supporting actors giving the town no shortage of weird and entertaining inhabitants, including Lance Henrikson as a sleazy bounty hunter, and Timothy Spall as one of the amusing town bigwigs.

Appaloosa really captures the feeling of classic westerns, but without the pantomime theatrics. The acting is excellent and the characters totally credible. The story is entertaining, giving us romance, fights, thrills, and plenty of laughs, for those who enjoy the lighter side of the genre. It's a good yarn, told with style.




Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen play a pair of tough gunmen for hire who come under the spell of a pretty widow in this old school western.

Morgan 2009/02/13 10:44 PM
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Not bad, but Eastwood, with his more learned eye for place, time and character (and his own music), would have done this better. Harris the actor is just sharper than Harris the director. Three stars because it's a welcome western.
Uncle H 2009/02/16 8:38 AM
Can't wait to see this one. I am totally starved of Westerns.
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