Open Range (2003)

No place to run. No reason to hide.

A former gunslinger is forced to take up arms again when he and his cattle crew are threatened by a corrupt lawman.

I ain't going to meet my maker without knowing your real name.
It's purely my own opinion of course, but Open Range is a modern day genre classic that stands up to repeat viewings. It's not a flawless Western the Western historians will tell you, and some will pick out the hats or the impact of a rifle to mark the film down, but really we should be embracing a genre piece in the modern age that is clearly being directed with love and respect by the director.
It's story is of course a simply structured tale of the underdog rising up against the fat cats who want it all in the name of tyranny. But on its side is the fact that its characters are so interestingly engaging. Within a short time frame I feel that Kevin Costner manages to put us in the saddle with the main protagonists, we understand these guys without actually knowing them, and that is quite an achievement I feel. The film does flesh them out to enhance the film without boring the pants off the viewer, and it's only come the final reel that you realise you have been engaged in a very human and honest Western film.
Most of the cast do great here, both Robert Duvall & Kevin Costner bounce of each other with moody and world wise aplomb as the two main leads, while in the sole female role of note, Annette Bening is gusto beautiful personified. Sadly it's hard for me to write that Michael Gambon as the villain of the piece is not only underused, but also something of a let down. Such an accomplished actor should know better than to overdo it in the context of this particular story. Yes we get the need for villainy, but gurning and frothing doesn't quite make the grade here. It's a little surprising that director Costner didn't utilise Gambon more wisely.
Still, I say the film is a wondrous experience because it is, a film to have you cheering and booing in equal measure, and in the main the work on it is top dollar. Some of the shots are gorgeous, the framing that Costner uses in close ups is excellent, and the final reel shoot out ranks as one of the best in Western genre history. So all in all it's a modern day genre piece that actually sits nicely with the best from the golden era. 9/10

Tig Productions, Touchstone Pictures, Cobalt Media Group, Beacon Pictures by Kevin Costner, Lauran Paine, Craig Storper.
Stars: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi.

Genres: Action, Drama, Romance, Western

Keywords: gunslinger montana horse beef ranger shootout doctor violence thunderstorm cowboy crooked sheriff civil war veteran 19th century land baron vengeance lawman

08/15/2003

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