Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I have to disagree with the critical establishment when it comes to Ed Harris' new Western Appaloosa - I didn't hate it, but I found it rather plodding and jumbled with a lot of painfully dull stretches and an extended romantic subplot gone hideously awry. I suspect its fairly warm critical reception is due more to the Western genre being a sacred cow of American cinema than anything else.

It starts out promising enough with Profion Jeremy Irons running an evil gang that holds a small frontier town in a reign of terror. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are two freelance gunmen who roll into town and agree to uphold the law. I like all those actors (especially Viggo Mortensen, who brings immense gravitas and is the best thing in the movie), so so far so good. There's a couple gunfights, some dudes get killed, and they capture Jeremy Irons. They have to hold him in the jail cell until a judge can arrive in town and hold his trial, but before then all of Jeremy Irons' men are coming to break him out of jail with violence if need be. The stage seems set for badass Western action.

Then Renée Zellweger shows up and everything goes to shit, all the simmering tension drained instantly out of the movie and replaced with lovey dovey romance scenes between Zellweger and Harris, an awkward romantic triangle subplot, and the narrative going scattershot in every direction. Renée Zellweger is also just really, really annoying in the movie, whiny and prissy and unlikable; I think we're supposed to root for her and Ed Harris as a couple but I found her to be one of the most repulsive movie characters of the year.

From that point to the end of the film I never quite figured out what the plot was supposed to be; it goes all over the place, too introspective to be an action movie, too much movement be a character study, too much romance to be masculine, too much testosterone to be a chick flick, with little mood or tension to speak of. As I said, Viggo Mortensen is pretty badass all the way. And the movie ends in a gunfight between him and Jeremy Irons, which is cool and all, but by that point the engine had powered to a shuddering halt and I just didn't care anymore. If you want a badass Western, please just Netflix last year's 3:10 to Yuma instead.

2 Stars out of 5

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