Thursday, July 30, 2009

Movie review: Appaloosa

I am a sucker for westerns: cowboys, lawmen, saloons, horses, ridin' and shootin'. I am also a sucker for Ed Harris (mmmmmmmmmmmm), so when Appaloosa came up in the Blockbuster Online queue, I got all giddy. Pluswhich, westerns are one of the few genres Mr. Mouse and I like in common and it'd been a while since we watched a movie together. (As I may have mentioned before, Mr. Mouse does not like science fiction, fantasy, really violent thrillers - with the exception of some gangster movies - foreign films, animated movies, movies based on videogames or comic books, period pieces or horror flicks. That pretty much leaves dark comedies, some gangster movies and westerns for us to share.)

Appaloosa is set in 1882 New Mexico. Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (a finely-mustachioed Viggo Mortensen) are lawmen for hire, partnered these last dozen or so years. They've been hired by the Town of Appaloosa, NM, to clean up the town - specifically to deal with crooked rancher Bragg (Jeremy Irons, with a dubious accent) who has recently shot the town's marshall and deputies. Virgil and Everett immediately make it known that they are the new law and, more importantly, they are really good shots. At some point, a young ranchhand promises to testify against Bragg and Virgil and Everett are able to take him into custody.

It's a woman who screws everything up. Alison French, played simperingly by Renee Zellweger, is a widow who comes to town with nothing but a dollar, the ability to play piano and the ambition to catch herself a man. She comes between Virgil and Everett, although not exactly as you would think, and manages to get herself taken hostage when Bragg's men try to bust him loose. I won't give it all away but there are shoot-outs and broken hearts and just one of the heroes rides away into the sunset.

Appaloosa is an okay movie, not great. Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker, the film was co-written and directed by Ed Harris himself. He's got a nice eye for framing shots - many of which are quite lovely - but the story and characters seem lightweight somehow. It could be the fault of the source material, I suppose, but I haven't read the book. Viggo Mortensen does a nice job with what he's been given: his Everett is in the unlucky position of being smarter than his boss, the uncomplicated Virgil. But they're a good team, both the characters and the two actors portraying them - there's a sense of trust and loyalty between them.

When we turned the movie off, Mr. Mouse said, "Eh," which while not a ringing endorsement, at least proves that he stayed awake for the whole thing which is something in and of itself. If you enjoy westerns, you'll like Appaloosa well enough but I wouldn't bother rearranging my movie queue to get it to your mailbox any sooner.


  1. I assume you've seen "Lonesome Dove" and "Silverado", right? They are some of my favorite Westerns. Plus they have great (and barely) over-lapping casts. And we actually saw Rick(y) Schroeder (aka Newt) buying ice cream with his kids once in Scottsdale. :)

  2. I love Lonesome Dove; and Silverado is one of my all-time favorite movies ever (regardless of genre)!!!! We have it on DVD but even so, whenever it is on tv I am compelled to stop whatever I'm doing and watch it.

  3. My copy of Silverado is in Maine. I got it as soon as it was on DVD, so I actually have a copy of the mis-matted DVD. The original was 1.85:1 instead of 2.40:1.

    I just rewatched Lonesome Dove on TNT or AMC in a restored widescreen print. Looked great. I hadn't seen it all in ages. It's funny that I now recognize a lot of the Texas locales after having lived in Dallas for quite a while. I love how we are first introduced to the apparent broken down old farmers who are actually still bad-ass former Texas Rangers. Call's beat-down on the Cavalry scout and Gus' rescue of Lorie are classic. The stunned response of July after that kills me.

  4. "Eh" is exactly how I felt about this. It did look good and Viggo was great, but something just didn't awe me.