Theatrical Review: Appaloosa

It’s 1882, and the small town of Appaloosa in the New Mexico territory has fallen under prey by a ruthless rancher by the name of Randall Bragg. After Bragg cold-bloodedly kills the sheriff and two deputies while they try to apprehend two of his men for crimes committed against the townspeople, the town is in a state of desperation. They choose to hire two roving peacekeepers, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch to come in and clean up their town, with one catch: they literally have to turn control of the town over to them. Soon though, a young widow, Allison French, moves into town and further complicates their situation.

Appaloosa is the new movie from star and director Ed Harris based on the novel by Robert Parker (best known for the Spencer series) and it’s just a brilliant movie, another western that joins the likes of 3:10 To Yuma (though I have a bit of an issue with the ending of that film, I still recognize it’s extreme high quality getting there), Open Range and less recently, Unforgiven showing that there’s still life in the classic Western genre in film, if it’s handled just right.

Harris’ film is authentic as can be, shot against some really beautiful landscapes, and looking at the end credits, he’s even hired enough extras to actually be the populace of this town at the time. Everything just feels really right. But where this really excels is in the relationship between Cole and Hitch, a very deep-rooted friendship with both men as a compliment to each other making them a great team for the job they have to do.

Ed Harris plays Cole and Viggo Mortenson plays Hitch, and obviously after working together in a movie like A History of Violence, these guys obviously “get” each other and have chemistry that’s just totally natural. They’re backed up by Jeremy Irons as Bragg and a rougher than normal looking Renee Zellwegger as Allison, who both do really fine work here. Further welcome in the cast is Lance Herikson as a rival gunman to Cole and Hitch, brought in later in the film, Henrikson is just a natural for something like this.

Obviously, I had a great time with this film. It is leisurely paced, but nothing seems out of place or wrong to how everything plays out in the end. It’s easily followed and yet has it’s own complexities as well as some subtle humor. And if you do decide to see this, stay through the end credits. No there’s no extra scene at the end, but through the credits, there’s a little song sung by Ed Harris himself that’s a really nice and knowing end punctuation to the life ahead for his character, Virgil Cole. Appaloosa is just brilliant and of course, highly recommended…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

12. October 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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