October 5, 2008

The second film from actor turned director Ed Harris is an amiable, deliberately paced Western, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker and featuring an impressive array of actors, including Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger and Jeremy Irons. Appaloosa isn’t done in an epic mode, nor would you necessarily call it an action film, though there’s enough violence to earn it an R rating. (There’s some cussin’, too.) It’s primarily a study of the friendship between two professional lawmen, Virgil (Harris) and Everett (Mortensen), who’ve been roaming the west cleaning up towns, then moving on, for well over a decade. Their latest job is in a town called Appaloosa, tormented by a murderous rancher named Bragg (Irons). The appeal of the movie isn’t the plot, which is familiar even if it does take some interesting turns, but rather the interaction between the characters. The dialogue between them is terse, sometimes quirky and frequently very funny, i.e., one exchange after a gunfight: “It happened quick.” “Everyone knew how to shoot.” The movie nevertheless resists the full on move into comic mode, which is probably to the good, really. (That said, there’s a tongue in cheek song co-written and performed by the director as the end credits roll.) If you like Westerns and don’t mind an easygoing pace, then I think you’ll find Appaloosa to be a rewarding entertainment. It’s well written and ably directed, and it’s got that great cast, so it’s hard for Western fans to go wrong here.


(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)


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