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This character study, set in New Mexico in the early 40s, begins with an
enigmatic narrative that infuses `The Hi-Lo Country,' directed by Stephen
Frears, with a tension that ultimately runs high throughout the entire film.
The story focuses on the friendship between a couple of cowboys, Pete
Calder (Billy Crudup) and Big Boy Matson (Woody Harrelson), who upon
returning from the war are trying to make a go of the cattle business, while
bucking some stiff competition from the local cattle baron, Jim Ed Love (Sam
Elliott). At the same time, Pete becomes aware that he is not alone in his
obsession with a married woman, Mona (Patricia Arquette); Big Boy has it bad
for her, too, and she just happens to be the wife of Jim Ed's foreman, Les
Birk (John Diehl). And, as usually happens with a situation involving
obsession, things quickly begin to get sticky for all concerned. Big Boy,
it seems, is the one headed for trouble; he's hot-tempered, stubborn, and
fearless to a point bordering on stupidity. Pete, on the other hand, has a
good head on his shoulders and has a couple of things going for him: One is
a woman named Josepha (Penelope Cruz), who cares deeply for him, and the
other is his unwavering loyalty to Big Boy. The tension continues to mount,
and the situation is complicated further by the fact that Big Boy isn't
exactly discreet about his feelings for Mona, nor of his disdain for Jim Ed
Love, for whom his younger brother, Little Boy (Cole Hauser) now works.
Inevitably, things come to a head; but when it happens, the arena in which
it transpires is something of a surprise, though not entirely
Frears does a good job of capturing the essence of another time and place that seems so near and yet so far away. The world was changing around them, but in the Hi-Lo country there were still cowboys who punched cattle and drove the herd to market on horseback. Theirs is a fairly self-contained world, far removed from anything that is happening elsewhere; if a butterfly flaps it's wings in New York, it isn't going to affect Pete or Big Boy. Frears takes a look at the difference between the two men, Big Boy, who lives primarily for the moment (or so it would seem), and Pete, who is more apt to consider the consequences of his decisions, except, that is, when it comes to Mona. But even in that respect, it's Pete who ultimately shows some restraint. And Frears maintains the tension by keeping the situation between the men and Mona precariously balanced on the fence. You know that someone is bound to fall, but you don't know who it will be, where or when.
Crudup is convincing as Pete, bringing him to life with a reserved, understated performance. He brings an intelligent and introspective quality to the character that leads you to believe that Pete is always cognizant of what is going on around him, and where it's all heading. With Big boy, on the other hand, you never know if he's ever really aware of his situation, or if he just doesn't care. As Big Boy, Harrelson gives what may be his best performance ever. His portrayal is that of a true, rugged individual who keeps his deepest feelings to himself, but just may be a bit more savvy than he lets on. Initially, it appears that Big Boy and Pete are opposite sides of the same coin, but in the end you realize that they are not so different from one another after all.
As Mona, Arquette gives a somewhat subdued performance. Though attractive, she doesn't exactly exude the kind of sensuality that would seemingly elicit the obsessiveness of the men that is called for by the story, especially in Pete's case. Knowing what you know about the characters involved, it is hard to believe that Pete would look past the lovely and more alluring Josepha for even a second glance at Mona.
The supporting cast includes James Gammon (Hoover), Darren E. Burrows (Billy), Lane Smith (Steve) and Jacob Vargas (Delfino). A good, solid drama, `The Hi-Lo Country' may not be entirely original, but Frears has a nice touch and gives it a sense of realism that will get you emotionally involved with the characters and their story. And, upon reflection, it's a glimpse of a world that not that long ago was so much bigger than it is today. I rate this one 7/10.
I was surprised and disappointed to see this film only get a 6.0 in the database. I am giving it a 7 because Penelope Cruz, who I respect as an actress- amazing beauty aside- doesn't quite fit into this film. Otherwise, the directing from Stephen Frears, who has tried (it seems) as many genres as Howard Hawks, is solid. Billy Crudup, Patty Arquette and even Woody Harrelson (still want my $ back from NBK even though it's been a decade now!) is quite good in this. It is very hard to make Westerns these days, and I'm sure the box office from this film won't help. But, along with "Dead Man" and "Unforgiven," this film proves it can be done. Worth a look, especially for those of us ( a minority in my generation- GEN X) who still apprecaite the Western as a genre and as an art form.
This movie has all the ingredients to make a great movie. It is beautifully
photographed with wonderful western landscapes. It has one of Woody
Harrelson's best performances as a hard drinking, hard working, hard loving
good old boy rancher. It has excellent support from Sam Elliot, Billy
Crudup and Penelope Cruz. It is set in the late 40's, early 50's when
small independent ranchers are being replaced by large commercial
The problem with this movie is that is focuses way too much on the three way relationship between Billy Crudup, Woody Harrelson and Patricia Arquette. Arquette and Harrelson are lovers and Crudup lusts after Arquette. This relationship is not believable because Arquette's character is untrustworthy, amoral, and a liar. The woman who is more interested in Crudup is the Penelope Cruz character. The movie never explains why Crudup would prefer Arquette over the much more beautiful and sexy Cruz.
The Sam Elliot character is wasted. He does a good job of portraying the businessman rancher. He is not evil, but all the small time ranchers hate him because he is contributing to, and a symbol of, the end of small ranches. But it is not Sam Elliot that is destroying the small ranches, it is the progress of commercialization which Sam Elliot represents. It is this contradiction between good person Sam Elliot is and the evil that he represents that makes is character so interesting. This movie should have been more about Sam Elliot.
The movie falls apart into silly soap opera / action movie like scenes at the end. It abandons the interesting character study and gives us emergency rescues in a storm, deaths, murders, cover-ups and "dramatic" revelations. Those scenes belong in some other movie.
This is a wonderful movie produced by Martin Scorcese's group and is the best contemporary western I've seen since "Unforgiven". In some ways it is like a Cormac McCarthy novel brought to life. It has a mature and literate screenplay by Walon Green, is well acted by Billy Crudup and Woody Harrelson, has strong supporting performances by a large and perfectly cast group of actors (including Patricia Arquette, Katy Jurado, Sam Elliott, and Penelope Cruz), is beautifully photographed by Oliver Stapleton against spectacular backdrops in New Mexico, is very well directed by Stephen Frears, and has a haunting score by the superb Carter Burwell. Only an overly sentimental last scene weakens an otherwise great film, but the movie is still well worth seeing.
Set in the late 1940s, The Hi-Lo Country is a strange mix of drama, romance, western, buddy movie and something that can be best described as an Americana version of Latin America's magical realism: there's even a witch telling the future, and her prophecy fulfills! The movie does not offer much in terms of action: it rather sets out to be a "slice-of-life" piece, taking a look both at the events and the changes occurring in all the lead characters. I can understand this kind of approach can be disliked by some viewers; still, I found this movie interesting and somewhat underrated (picked it one evening on the cable). If you like a movie that emphasizes the mood instead of the actual action and with a strong cast ensemble (watch for Northern Exposure's Darren Burrows!), this is for you. 7 out of 10.
I really enjoyed this ''modern'' western about two young war veterans
coming back home from the war zone and trying to make a living by
working as old-fashioned cowboys. Pete Calder ( Billy Crudup ) is the
shy and reserved one, Big Boy ( Woody Harrelson ) the risk taker with
the biggest mouth and smoothest bluffing skills. Their friendship is
threatened by the lovely Mona ( Patriccia Arquette ); an adulteress,
sending in mixed signals to both of the boys.
You know, I sometimes don't get it why good movies get low or mediocre scores. The way I see it, this movie has its flaws, but it is almost as good as the recent Brokeback Mountain. I really like this epic story about unreachable love and jealousy at someone you consider as a true friend. Add the intense bar fights, gorgeous scenery and a top cast, I'd say this is a very good movie. The only thing I have to comment is that some of the characters just don't get so much attention as they deserve ( like the Mexican guy or Hoover Young ). It felt as if their characters had an important role in the novel, but there just wasn't the time for them in this movie to give them their deserved deep layer. Alas, I can live with that.
Overall I enjoyed this movie. It wasn't great, and yet it wasn't
I found Woody Harrelson's acting lacking; something about it just didn't make me believe him as the brash, swaggering cowboy. Billy Crudup's acting was very good and believable. Crudup did such a good job that it made me wish that they'd used someone as good as him for Harrelson's part; it would have the movie a lot better.
The story was a bit hard to swallow; Crudup was in love with the same woman, Patricia Arquette, that Harrelson was, but she was too unlikable and shallow and I couldn't understand how he could have the hots for such a loser of a woman.
The ending had a nice twist; the way the movie started it made you think it was going to end one way but it ended differently than you were led to believe. The ending was also bittersweet which gave it a nice finish.
The Hi-Lo Country has it all: male bonding, bar fights, passion and
obsession. The characters reflect the brutality and the charm of old ways
which refuse to die. Great performances by Woody Harrelson and the younger
Billy Crudup who star as lifelong friends whose world made of land and
cattle start changing under their feet after their return from World War II.
The Hi-Lo Country is an involving, intense and somewhat nostalgic western which tries to abandon traditional plot lines while using all the classic western cliches. Strongly advised to people who like some "melo" in their "drama".
How does an entertaining film like this get overlooked and undervalued?
Woody Harrelson was born to play "Big Boy" and Billy Crudup does a fine
job playing his sidekick. Patricia Arquette gets a little annoying
about halfway through the film, but we've learned to expect that from
her so that shouldn't come as a surprise.
The friction created throughout this film keeps the interest level up and makes for a lot of fun, especially when things really start heating up; Harrelson becomes more and more volatile while Crudup becomes more and more worried about Big Boy's safety, all the while dealing with the animosity and jealousy he feels towards his best friend.
It all adds up to a story that keeps you guessing as to how it will finalize. The ending won't surprise anyone, but it still feels right, even if it isn't exactly what we may have wanted. Good movies do that instead of giving us what we want, they give us a better and more fitting ending.
Sure, 'The Hi-Lo Country' isn't the best western ever made, but it certainly isn't the worst. It's definitely one of the more entertaining.
With such a great cast, I expected a great film, but all it did for me
was put me to sleep, or to be more precise, used the control to turn it
off. The film was slow moving, predictable and the script left much to
As much as there are some people that are trying to take us back to the "good old days", this film reminds me why I wouldn't want to. It seems like everyone is overdosing in testosterone and stupidity and where the absolute meaning of life is drinking, fighting, womanizing, and being an absolute jerk.
Sorry, but with things as they are in the world today, I can't sympathize with a bully as a hero.
Again, quite a disappointment with so many great actors in the film.
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