Five years after Kevin Costner’s excellent Open Range (2003) another Western came along with similar qualities: attention to character development, period detail and well-staged action sequences.
Ed Harris directed and starred in this adaptation of the novel Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker (Spenser: For Hire), playing lawman Virgil Cole who has been hired to clean up the titular town, which has been subject to the predations of Jeremy Irons’ Anglo-American rancher Randall Bragg.
As his deputy Everett Hitch, Harris cast his History of Violence co-star Viggo Mortensen. Their relationship in the movie is underplayed – and very believable. As is Renée Zellweger as the Allie French, a widowed saloon bar pianist who has the insatiable need to be protected by powerful men.
Or is a borderline nymphomaniac. Or both.
Either way, Zellwegger’s pretty good at playing a mildly unsympathetic character, much more tolerable in Appaloosa (to me at least) than she normally is.
As for Irons…well his inability to nail an American accent is explained by him being a expat Limey (like Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen in Deadwood), and he chews the scenery, but I really enjoyed his performance.
For a splendid night’s Western-themed entertainment I would thoroughly recommend Open Range followed by Appaloosa.
Yeehaw, as they say.