Projections - Movie Reviews

Open Range

Open Range

Kevin Costner directs and stars in one of his favorite genres "the Western."

A gorgeous panoramic view of endless grasslands and majestic mountains with lightning striking in the distance, is the backdrop for Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), a grizzled cattle herder, his longtime cowhand Charley Waite (Costner) an orphaned lad who helps out with chores and a big, good-natured cook Mose (Abraham Benrubi).

Boss and Waite have been together for ten years and have an easy friendship backed up with mutual respect.  Their past, Boss' life on the range and Waite's war experiences, have shaped their characters.

They're part of a dying breed of "free rangers," cowboys who roam the open range stopping to allow their herd graze whenever they camp for the night, and then moving on to more fertile ground.  The problem is that once the Civil War ended and land was privately purchased, the new owners rejected these unwanted guests.

Boss and his crew set up near the town of Harmonville, home to just one of the ornery land owners.  Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), an especially vicious Irish land owner, who controls the sheriff and has the rest of the townspeople quaking in their boots, is not about to let outsiders on his property.

To set up the obligatory big showdown, Mose goes into town to get supplies and ends up badly beaten and thrown into the corrupt sheriff's jail cell.

When Charley and Boss go looking for him, it's them against the bad guys.  They're not going it entirely alone however; Michael Jeter, in a role much like Gabby Hayse made famous, is a helpful blacksmith and Annette Bening as Sue, the town Doc's sister, gives TLC and sets her eyes on Charley the minute she sees him.

The film has quite a bit of violence once the shooting begins, but Costner uses shadows and images caught in glass and fleeting figures running behind buildings to add interest and suspense, instead of having the men standing in the street facing one another shooting until one of them falls down dead.

Costner also uses a rain storm that completely engulfs the little town, to great effect.  He's a competent director who films at a slow pace.  But, the best thing he did, was to hire Duvall to play Boss Spearman!

Duvall, a master at getting everything he can out of a character, does a superb job at playing a man who hasn't survived in the wild as long as he has by being stupid.

In a film with a great deal to like, his performance is at the top of the list.

Open Range

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