Open Range


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Robert Duvall as Boss Spearman
Kevin Costner as Charley Waite
Annette Bening as Sue Barlow
Michael Gambon as Denton Baxter
Michael Jeter as Percy
Diego Luna as Button
James Russo as Marshall Poole
Abraham Benrubi as Mose
Dean McDermott as Doc Barlow
Kim Coates as Butler
Herb Kohler as Café Man
Peter MacNeill as Mack
Cliff Saunders as Ralph
Patricia Stutz as Ralph’s wife
Julian Richings as Wylie

Open Range brings Kevin Costner back to the director’s chair and back to the Western genre. The deliberately slow first half of the film is made up for in the vengeful second half.

Boss Spearman (Duvall), Charley Waite (Costner), Mose Harrison (Benrubi) and Button (Luna) are ‘freegrazing’ their cattle across the vast prairies of the West, sharing their friendship forged by a steadfast code of honor and living a life unencumbered by civilization. When their wayward herd forces them near the small town of Harmonville, the cowboys encounter a corrupt Marshall (Russo) and kingpin rancher (Gambon) who govern the territory through fear, tyranny and violence. Boss and Charley find themselves inextricably drawn towards the inevitable showdown as they are forced to defend the freedom and values of a lifestyle that is all to quickly vanishing. Amidst this turmoil, life suddenly takes an unexpected turn for loner Charley when he meets town nurse Sue Barlow (Bening), a woman who embraces both his heart and his soul. As these courageous men prepare for the decisive battle that looms, they are also forced to confront and conquer their own internal demons.

Open Range is rated R for violence.

What Worked:
The landscapes that encompass Open Range are stunning – a portrayal of the American West that could only be found… in Canada. Yes, the film, set in near a fictious post Civil War US town was filmed in the Great White North. But hey, whatever works right? Acting Kudos go out first and foremost to Robert Duvall. Everyone out there thinking about staying away from this film because it’s a Kevin Costner movie should think again. This is Duvall’s film. He plays Boss with a simple grace and style – tough as nails on the outside, but loving inside. This could garner Duvall a few nominations when awards season comes around. He really has a knack for making the ordinary extra-ordinary.

That is another plus for this film. Costner as director goes to great lengths to make sure the audience sees people here. Real people. Not some caricature of prototypical gunslingers. The human element is very apparent in Open Range, all the way down to the humor that is placed at strategic intervals throughout the film – even as the men are facing an eight-on-two gunfight. The gunfight itself is ‘very real’. It’s not over dramatic or played up. It is how it likely would have happened back in the 1880s.

Costner the actor is fine here… as is the rest of the supporting cast.

What Didn’t Work:
Open Range will likely draw comparisons to Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven – and yes, the comparisons are there. Both start out very slow… and end in a bloodbath. Both have men who have tried to put there pasts behind them and move forward, but some how just can’t. Both are ‘human’ films – showing each character for who he is… warts and all. Costner’s Charley Waite has a secret past that could have used a bit more maturing… instead we found out via a campfire story just before bedtime.

The romance angle between Costner and Bening, while sweet, seemed even less matured and somewhat forced. He spends half the movie thinking she’s already married, then at the end he asks her to marry him before he even kisses her for the first time?! Didn’t buy it.

Gambon’s Baxter could have used a little more oomph as well. All we know is that he’s an Irish rancher that apparently controls the town through intimidation. His accent also makes it difficult to understand what he is saying during the gunfight finale.

All and all, Open Range is a good rainy day film. I enjoyed seeing Duvall in a stern, but somewhat playful role. Go check it out. What else are you going to do until Return of the King comes out?!