Plot: When Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch arrive in Appaloosa, they find a town suffering at the hands of a rancher named Randall Bragg that means to own everything in it, and who has already left the city Marshall and one of his deputies dead. Cole and Hitch are used to cleaning up after scavengers, but this one raises the stakes by playing not by the rules, but with emotion. Cole and Hitch are hired to save the town from Bragg, but a young attractive widow arrives to complicate matters.
Starring: Jeremy Irons, Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Renee Zellweger
Directed By: Ed Harris
Time: 1 hr 54 min
I should start with the fact that I am not terribly fond of westerns in general. Not that there aren’t some good ones, there are, and films like 3:10 to Yuma, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford have been recent favorites. On the whole it is not a genre I seek out when it comes to my movie geekiness. My dad, however, loves Westerns and was excited to find out that a man from Bozeman was in it as well, so when this came to town we made a point to go together. I’ll admit I was intrigued and am quite willing to see any film that Viggo Mortensen is in. Add in Jeremy Irons and Ed Harris, two more of my favorite actors, and I expected it wouldn’t be too hard to watch.
I am happy to say that I was not disappointed at all. Based on a novel by Robert B Parker, Ed Harris plays Virgil Cole who, along with his long time partner and friend Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), is hired as marshal to clean up the small town of Appaloosa. The previous marshal was killed by land baron Randall Bragg, played by the equally talented Jeremy Irons, whose men do as they please in the town.
Applause goes to Ed Harris who acted, directed, produced, and helped write the film. As I said I have been a fan of Ed Harris for some time as an actor. He’s handsome, with beautiful blue eyes and has a way of commanding the screen. While his character may be somewhat stereotypical of the Western genre in my opinion (cold hearted gunslinger who wants to settle down and get out of this life, but who will never back down from a fight even when he questions it), he plays it well. Same goes with Viggo Mortensen, who disappears into his roles. As Everett he is largely silent, his rifle always on his shoulder and looking oh so delectable leaning against plenty of walls. He respects his partner, Cole, even when he doesn’t understand him. Virgil and Everett rely on each other. They each know the other’s strengths and weaknesses and the dialogue between the two is great. The chemistry between Harris and Mortensen makes the film that more enjoyable.
And then you have Jeremy Irons, who is equally gorgeous to a gal such as me, and certainly no slouch in the acting department. Bragg is a bastard and with his gravelly voice and stare, you cannot help but love to hate his villainous character. Add in great turns by Timothy Spall and Lance Henricksen and the film is actuallu chock full of great performances. The one performance I did not like was Renee Zellweger’s. Not only did she seem to have lost all ability to emote from the mouth up, but I really did not like her character. She was a plot device while her character may be realistic of women of that time perhaps, her constantly wanting to snog every Alpha male in the film was disturbing. I could buy Ali being torn between Virgil and Everett, but when she didn’t even change after her kidnapping (at first I thought she was a plant from the start the way she was happily skinny-dipping with her captors whose sole purpose was to create a rift between Cole and Hitch) I was even more annoyed. In short, she was my least liked part of the film and I would feel the same about her character if I had read the book. I liked Katie much more (Adriana Gil from Pan’s Labyrinth) and was thankful that Everett quickly saw French for who and what she really was.
Apart from the great performances I did not find the film predictable despite having some of the Western staples. I got a great gunfight, some beautiful cinematography, and the outlaws I expected to find, but I also got an old school western about friendship, honor and loyalty. It had everything I wanted in it and it is a film that I would recommend seeing in the theatre if you can as some of the film’s beauty will be lost on the small screen. Definitely worth a look.