Open Range Movie Review

During a summer in which TV remakes, romantic comedies, sequels, and comic book movies overcrowd at the multiplexes, Open Range is the only Western scheduled for release. While I give kudos to Dances with Wolves auteur Kevin Costner -- who directs, produces, and acts in the film -- for broadening the range of this season's genres, I only wish that I could welcome the film's drastic change of pace. Frankly, I'd rather watch another stupid superhero flick.

It's 1882, and best friends Charley (Costner) and Boss (Robert Duvall) are cowboys who have lived on the open range for ten years, driving cattle in a world where nature makes the only laws. Roaming the West with them are rambunctious young cowboys Button (Diego Luna), Mose (Abraham Benrubi), and Charley's faithful dog. When a rainstorm strands their wagon, Charley and Boss send Mose to the nearest frontier town to gather additional supplies. When he doesn't return, they decide to take a visit to the town -- with their revolvers at hand -- to search for him.

They discover Mose in jail, bloody and bruised. Charley and Boss rescue Mose and investigate the source of the violence. The townspeople point to the tyrannous Baxter (Michael Gambon), who has it out for cowboys everywhere. Charley and Boss normally abide by the ethics of the West and avoid bloodshed, but when Baxter arranges another cruel act that changes their lives, they are forced into action. Amidst the violence and chaos, Charley and Boss meet the affectionate Sue Barlow (Annette Bening), who offers them shelter and medical assistance and quickly becomes the object of Charley's affection.

Unlike its summer competition, Open Range is a patient film -- it takes its old, sweet time -- but it tests our patience to a maddening degree. Costner abandons many of the tedious conventions of modern Westerns in an attempt to recreate the solid characterizations as seen in classic Westerns. He does so by focusing on details insignificant to the story. Costner has noble intentions, but he only bores us with them. The minor details do not drive the story forward; they only slow the movie down. Life may have moved slowly in the West, but that doesn't mean a movie has to. If you have two hours to live, see this movie -- it will make those two hours seem like two weeks.

Undeniably, Kevin Costner has successfully created an authentic Western here -- but that's not necessarily a good thing. The film is almost too old-fashioned for its own good. The rich, authentic flavor of the film almost instantly becomes obnoxious and preachy. It hammers us with lessons of wisdom that may have been original back in 1882, but nowadays, we don't need--or want--painfully obvious morals about trust and friendship. Example: "A man's trust is a valuable thing. You don't want to lose it over a game of cards." No shit, Sherlock.

The western style seems to come effortlessly to Irishman Michael Gambon and Robert Duvall (let's face it, he's just a naturally cowboy). They deliver the film's standout performances. Gambon is as menacingly evil as any western villain that I can remember. He commits to the character totally, without wit or apology. Duvall and Gambon bring a lot of conviction to the movie, but Open Range focuses more on the romantic subplot with Charley and Sue. Unfortunately, Costner and Bening lack chemistry and conviction, even given the unconventional nature of their relationship. They never seem to quite get the hang of the style of the film, either. In other words, they are fish out of water.

Open Range does eventually lead up to an intense climatic gunfight -- but the compelling third act stands worlds apart from the tedious pacing of the rest of the movie. The gunfight is not a traditional glamorous Hollywood Western showdown. There's no slow motion, blood, or close-ups. Instead, it's quick, coarse, and disturbing. Costner perceives violence like people actually see violence, in brief wisps, sometimes from a distance. He proves that he is still capable with the film's gripping, unforgettable finale, but the rest of Open Range doesn't deserve a showdown of this stature.

So go see some other movie and sneak into Open Range for the last twenty minutes. That way, you get a leaner piece of meat for your money -- all the flavor, but without all the excess fat -- and believe me, there's a whole lot of it.

You can jump right to the end on the Open Range DVD, which adds a commentary from Costner plus a second disc of extras -- deleted scenes, storyboards, Costner's "director's journal," and a short feature about life in the 1800s called America's Open Range.

Stop us if you've seen this one.

Comments

Open Range Rating

" Grim "

Rating: R, 2003

Advertisement

More Robert Duvall

Bono Reveals Why He Always Wears Sunglasses: "I Have Glaucoma"

Bono explained why he wears sunglasses seemingly all the time whilst appearing on a British talk show.Bono spotted in London on Thursday (16th Oct.).Read More:...

The Judge Throws Its Hat Into The Awards Ring

Clearly determined to be a contender, this film is carefully designed to showcase the work of stars Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Of course,...

The Judge Movie Review

This generational drama strains so hard to be serious that it's almost laughable. Its big themes are only superficially addressed, while the bloated nearly two...

Robert Duvall Appears On 'The Late Night Show With David Letterman' Before Taking A Verbal Swipe At Stephen Colbert - Pt2

Robert Duvall, the legendary actor who appeared in 'The Godfather' movies and 'Apocalypse Now', was photographed arriving at and leaving the 'Late Night Show with...

Advertisement

Robert Downey Jr: "There Are No Plans for Iron Man 4"

Given Marvel's recent success with Guardians of the Galaxy, a string of release date announcements and Robert Downey Jr's recent publicity jaunt, it probably comes...

The Jury Is Left Divided After Robert Downey Jr’s ‘The Judge’ Shows At TIFF

Starring Robert Downey Jr and Robert Duvall as a dysfunctional father son duo, The Judge had its premiere at the Toronto Film festival on Friday...

'The Judge' is Formulaic, Contrived and Very, Very Entertaining

Robert Downey Jr was the star name on the opening night of the Toronto Film Festival even if his latest film, The Judge, hadn't exactly...

Downey Jr and 'The Judge' Set To Open Toronto Film Festival

David Dobkin, the filmmaker best known for his classic comedy Wedding Crashers, brings an altogether different film to the Toronto Film Festival this week. His...

Advertisement