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Appaloosa (2008) August 15, 2009

Posted by Dragan Antulov in Film Reviews.
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A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2009

In the past century all those seeking simple but effective entertainment in films were usually served best by the Western genre. The basics of such simple but effective entertainment are today provided by semi-nostalgic films like APPALOOSA, 2008 Western directed by Ed Harris.

The plot, based on the novel by Robert K. Parker, is set in Appaloosa, small mining town in 1882 New Mexico. Ed Harris plays Virgil Cole, experienced lawman who, together with his best friend and film’s narrator Everett Hitch (played by Viggo Mortensen), made good reputation by cleaning wild Western towns from criminals. Town of Appaloosa has serious problem of that nature in the form of Randall Bragg (played by Jeremy Irons), wealthy rancher whose cowboys terrorise, rape and murder the townsfolk. After town’s marshall and his deputy die while trying to arrest Bragg’s men, city business leaders hire Cole and Hitch to deal with that problem. They quickly establish some sort of law and order, but their mission and friendship is challenged with an arrival of attractive female pianist Allison French (played by Renee Zellweger).

For most part, APPALOOSA is employing all the ingredients of classic Western formula -  barren landscapes that underline the characters and their strict separation between the Good and Evil, as well as proper blend of action, melodrama and humour. One of the examples of latter  is provided by Cole’s lack of proper education and his inability to employ “important” words, which brings well-educated Hitch to rescue. The acting in this film is superb – Harris and Mortensen play their characters with great deal of ease, while Irons can’t hide his enthusiasm in playing villain quite uncharacteristic for his career. Renee Zelwegger is also very good, by providing aura of mystery and charm to character that proves rather unusual for Western. Supporting players are adding much to the film. mainlčy almost unrecognisable Lance Henriksen in small role that would otherwise be cliche.

Very good impression of APPALOOSA is spoiled in the moment the film appears to be ending. The script adds unusual plot twists that prolong film’s resolution for at least half hour, thus revealing many of  its flaws. The last segment of APPALOOSA looks overlong, allowing the audience to notice many missed opportunities, mainly those dealing with social and political context of the plot; that context was probably explored in Parker’s novel but Harris (who also co-wrote script with Robert Knott) chose more classical, “purist” and non-revisionist Western approach. Despite that, APPALOOSA serves its general purpose by providing audience with old-fashioned but simple and effective entertainment.

RATING: 6/10

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