Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Open Range

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
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 Sheriff Poole
Abraham Benrubi as Mose
Dean McDermott as Doc Barlow
Kim Coates as Butler

Special Features:
Disc 1:

Audio Commentary with Kevin Costner

Disc 2:

"America's Open Range" A historical journey back in time to the real open range of the 1800's, narrated by Kevin Costner

"Beyond Open Range" Director's Journal An unprecedented look at Kevin Costner's creative journey

Deleted Scenes With optional commentary by Kevin Costner

"Storyboarding Open Range"

Music Video Montage

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French Language Track
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 139 Minutes

Synopsis:
Boss Spearman, Charley Waite, Mose, and Button are four free range cattlemen. As they let their cattle graze in the country in the late 1800's, they send Mose to town for supplies. When he doesn't return, Charley and Boss go looking for him. When they arrive in town they discover that Mose has been jumped by local ranchers and thrown in jail by the sheriff who is loyal to Denton Baxter. Baxter is the richest rancher in the area and he despises free range cowboys.

After Boss and Charley take the badly beaten Mose back to camp, their troubles don't end. Baxter sends his goons out to kill the cowboys and steal the cattle. Needless to say, they are only partially successful. Thus Boss and Charley return to town to mete out frontier justice. All of the violence unlocks doors to Charley's violent past. Can he keep himself under control when the shooting starts or will his soul be yet another casualty in the conflict?

Open Range is rated R for violence.

The Movie:
Kevin Costner directs his version of the classic Western in Open Range. All of the required elements for the genre are here. You have cowboys, an evil man that owns the town, a showdown, a bar fight, and the inevitable final shootout. The only thing missing is a train robbery. If you like Westerns then you'll probably enjoy Open Range. Comparisons with Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" will inevitably (and justifiably) be made. They are very similar films in many respects.

Costner is able to leave his own unique touches here and there despite sticking closely with the Western formula. He pays fine attention to detail. When a camp is set up, we actually see the characters working to set it up. When the shootout happens, everyone clears out of town. We see that, too. When the shooting starts, people miss. A lot. And when the bodies are lying around at the end, we see them all getting buried. It's this attention to detail that helps transport you back to that era. The beautiful scenery is also stunning and helps give the film an epic look.

The performances in the film are good, but nothing spectacular. Robert Duvall is the same character he is in every Western he appears in. Kevin Costner is very reserved right up until the very end when he goes berserk. Annette Benning doesn't have all that much to do. Her romance with Costner isn't terribly convincing, either. She knows Charley for maybe a few hours and they already start swooning over each other and talking marriage. (I guess I would, too, if I spent ten years with cows and Robert Duvall.) This is also one of the last performances of character actor Michael Jeter. He does a good job as the stable owner. I have to add that I thought I had picked out early who would live and die, but in the end I was totally wrong. At least it had a little unpredictability going for it.

The biggest problem with Open Range is that is extremely slowly paced. The movie plods along at a very slow rate and things really don't build a lot of steam until the final 20 minutes or so. For people with ADD, they can watch the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes and understand most of the relevant plot. Plus you'll also be able to catch the impressive final gun battle. It has a surprisingly abrupt start and doesn't let up till the end. The movie also occasionally suffers from cheesy dialogue. Yes, Costner's character says, "Rustle up some grub." Overall, though, it's forgivable.

If you're a Kevin Costner fan or a fan of Westerns, you'll enjoy Open Range. Everyone else should approach with caution. This film also features one of the last scores by composer Michael Kamen. While Open Range is not his best work, it is nice to be treated to his talent one last time.

The Extras:
Surprisingly, this is a two disc DVD set. It has a lot more extra features than I thought it deserved, but it's a nice treat for Western and Costner fans:

Audio Commentary with Kevin Costner Like the movie itself, Costner's commentary is at times slow and plodding. With only him talking, he has a lot of responsibility keeping things rolling by himself. There are long stretches where he doesn't say anything, but his discussions are generally interesting. He talks a bit about the real world history behind the film, the locations, and general making of the movie. I think the commentary needed input from a few more cast and crew members, though.

"America's Open Range" In this 15 minute documentary narrated by Kevin Costner, a few historical figures from the 1800's are highlighted. The discuss Theodore Roosevelt's travels in the open range, a woman's photo journal of settler life, and other people. Many old photos are shown and a brief history of this time period is given. While it's not as in depth as I was expecting, it was better than nothing.

"Beyond Open Range" Director's Journal In this candid documentary we follow Kevin Costner as he struggles to get Open Range made. We see him fighting to get financing, struggling with casting, and even dealing with a bursting appendix during shooting. It's quite an in-depth look at the making of the film. I must admit that I was taken off guard when at one point Costner starts bashing a guy who waffled on financing. It's at the beginning of the film and it immediately sets the tone of this feature it's a very personal, candid look at the filmmaking process. Some of it seems contradictory, though. In one scene Costner complains about not being able to find enough money. A couple of scenes later he's having an entire Western town built from scratch because none of the existing ones look exactly like he likes. For a man working on a tight budget it seems a bit extravagant. Unfortunately there are almost no interviews with the other cast members. This is entirely Costner's show.

Deleted Scenes There are around 12 deleted scenes included on the DVD. They are all around 2 or 3 minutes long. Most of them expand on what is already in the movie. For example, we get more info about Mose's fight. We learn what happened to the saloon owner and why the doctor was thrown in jail. All these things are mentioned in the movie but these are the scenes featuring them. They aren't necessary for the story, especially since it would have increased the running time, but they do expand on the plot a little. These deleted scenes can be watched with introductions by Kevin Costner.

"Storyboarding Open Range" In this featurette the storyboard artist for Open Range talks about how he prepared the artwork for the movie. He sat down with Kevin Costner and storyboarded most of the key scenes from the film. I was a little surprised to see him even doing artwork for scenes on the set itself. They do some nice split screen comparisons between the original storyboards and the final scenes.

Music Video Montage This is a five minute music video showing behind the scenes footage of Coster directing, Costner acting, Costner riding a horse, Costner brooding, Costner laughing, etc etc etc. You get the idea. All this is set to some music. It ends up making the writer/director/actor look extremely egocentric.

The Bottom Line:
Western fans and Kevin Costner fans will really enjoy Open Range. It's not a bad drama, but it is definitely slow at times. The final gunfight should satisfy action fans to some degree. The extras on the DVD are very Costner-centric and may turn off some viewers. Open Range is probably at least worth a rental.

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