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They don't westerns that much anymore, at least on the big screen.
People in the Baby Boomer generation grew up with them on television.
Western films were big at the box office in several decades, too.
Well, at least Kevin Costner must have a heart for the genre as he been involved with several major western productions in the last 15 years, this the latest.
The best thing I can say about this film right out front is that it may be the best western I've ever watched. I can't give it higher praise than that! Since I've seen so many, for so long, it's especially high praise.
I make this bold statement because of the following:
1 - Fantastic scenery and beautiful cinematography. If it looks spectacular on my 24-inch flat-screen, I can't imagine how awesome it would be a big plasma set.
2 - Characters you really care about, led by three actors who almost always give solid performances: Robert Duvall (the best in here), Costner and Annette Bening. Duvall, by the way, gives one of the best short "speeches" I've ever witnessed in a movie. It was nice to see Bening actually play a wholesome woman for a change. The two men who are out on the range with Duvall and Costner also were excellent.
3 - Just the right amount of action. When the action does occur, such as gunfire, the sound is incredible. This might be one of the best movies, audibly-speaking, I've ever heard, which is another reason for ranking it Number One. There are no lulls but not a ton of action, either.
4 - Just the right amount of romance. It doesn't get sappy, it doesn't overshadow the basic story, but it adds a nice, soft touch to what could be a very rough and unpleasant tale. And, in a different twist, it's the romance, not the usual climactic gun battle, that ends this film.
I can't say enough about this movie except that I'm sorry more westerns like it aren't made today.
Costner's third film as a director, his fourth if you include his work
with Kevin Reynolds on Waterworld (1995), is another Western. One says
'another', but upon reflection it is obvious that it's a genre that,
creatively, he's hardly left. After the highly successful Dances With
Wolves (1990) he directed with Kevin Reynolds - albeit in uncredited
fashion - the critically mauled The Postman (1997). The latter was
nothing less than a reworking of the familiar Pony Express story, and
for good measure threw in explicit references to John Ford along the
way. Waterworld's ocean setting did nothing to disguise the fact that
that was a film that owed another massive debt to the great American
genre: sea fort, lone riders, wide-open watery frontier and all.
Costner also did sterling work as Wyatt Earp in Kasdan's 1994 film of
the same name - a substantial project, and one close enough in manner
to his own to suggest more than a passing creative influence from its
In Open Range, Costner again has the lead: as Charley Waite, former gunfighter, now sharing ownership of a free grazing cattle drive. Together with Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), and two others they reach Harmonville where they soon encounter a corrupt town Marshal (James Russo) and rancher (an excellent Michael Gambon) who threaten their way of life. They also discover others who prove sympathetic to their cause, like the sister of the town's doctor Sue Barlow (Annette Bening). There's growing suspense as an inevitable showdown looms ("Men are gonna get killed here today, Sue, and I'm gonna kill 'em...") Waite's personal life, and his romance gradually comes to the fore until its crisis, as well as the combat, mark the end of the film.
On screen Costner shares equal honours with the septuagenarian Robert Duvall, whose personal philosophy that "Man's got a right to protect his property and his life, and we ain't gonna let no rancher or his lawman take either," informs much of the main action. Crusty and fearsome, Spearman's dauntless words recall those of John Wayne's J.B. Books in The Shootist (1976) who expressed broadly similar sentiments: "I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them." In either case its an old man speaking, one fiercely independent after a life of hardship and who won't be trifled with. Open Range takes its main impetus from exactly that sort of unwelcome interference, and resembles Eastwood's Unforgiven in that a good deal of the narrative consists of a determined settling of accounts, an unrelieved search for moral recompense outside the law after an initial trespass against the innocent. What is started almost casually is finished deliberately and by the authority given the wronged: "Ours ain't writ by no tin star, bought and paid for, Marshall. It's writ by us, and we aim to enforce it," says Boss. Like Eastwood's film, Open Range also features a retired gunman who has recourse to his skills to help salvage a situation, and some of the best scenes with Costner's character concern his dispassionate and professional preparation for gunplay. Like William Munny before, Charley Waite has something of an avenging angel about him, whose cold consideration of his trade is filmed completely without irony.
Open Range has all the hallmarks of Costner the western auteur: an expansive, almost leisurely tone, supporting roles for loyal canines, a certain solemnity and respect for his conservative cinematic predecessors being foremost amongst them. As others have said, Costner directs as if Peckinpah and Leone had never existed, and the present work is no exception. Characteristically, it contains none of the self-indulgent nostalgia or cynicism common in the genre since the 1960s. Despite a visual quote from The Wild Bunch (1969) for instance, as men take their long walk abreast to the confrontation, the final shootout of Open Range owes far more to the traditional showdown of Gunfight At The OK Corral (1957) than the apocalyptic finale of Peckinpah's masterpiece. Slow burning, character driven and ruminative, Costner's latest has been criticised by some for its too-deliberate narrative pacing. For an MTV-generation viewing audience, unused to an older, more leisurely way of showing things, such issues are understandable, although no one used to a filmmaker taking his time to tell a good story will complain. Indeed, part of the great success of Open Range is the way it single-mindedly sustains an atmosphere of fateful suspense.
One thing that no one disputes: Duvall is magnificent in his part, a performance that may well prove a capstone to a long and prestigious career. Costner apparently had the actor in mind for the part from the first, a decision justified entirely and one of the highlights of the film. In fact if the film's has a weakness it can be put down to that fact that Spearman holds the stage so successfully, and for so long. Waite's own romance, starting so tentatively, is somewhat overshadowed by the more urgent prerogatives of his partner and when it finally flowers, it leads to some scenes which could have, with prudence been cut back to greater effect. Having said that, Costner's awkward farewell to Miss Barlow, saying so much with so little, just before the fight begins, is another memorable scene where sentimentality is kept happily at bay. It is once the violence is over, and the great tension is dissipated, that matters are drawn out a little too much. A little stoicism might have led to a more memorable close.
Like many good westerns, Open Range's central concerns lie around personal freedom and moral rectitude - the balance between which gives a good deal of the narrative its necessary tension. Like crossing the flood, which pours down the main street of Harmonville, the participants have to choose one side or the other. It's a film ultimately less about a gunfighter settling down, than of how men abide their self-justified actions. In the disc extras, Costner draws an illuminating parallel between the scene in his film in which Spearman and Waite confront the jayhawkers and The Oxbow Incident. In Wellman's 1943 classic, a rushed lynching leads to a disastrous error and mutual guilt. In Costner's film, to whom guilt is assigned is never in doubt, and indeed Spearman initially has to hold Waite back from overstepping the mark - an action which he comes to regret. "I never had any problem with killing," says Waite at one point. Like Eastwood's Munny, once justified he seeks stark retribution without compunction.
There's only one gunfight in Open Range, but it is worth the wait. Spread out almost as leisurely as the rest of the film, Costner and his cinematographer James Muro use a range of shots throughout the violent events to achieve effects both chaotic and planned at the same time. (Incidentally for a filmmaker who prides himself on accuracy, Costner has his hero 'fan' off shots, a notoriously inaccurate way of discharging a gun, but that's a minor distraction.) It's a notable confrontation, an extended set piece sequence that is one of the director's best and confirms his film the finest western since Unforgiven.
(This is my first written review, so bear with me)
I've seen many of Kevin Costner's movies (both acting and directing), and even more westerns, and I'd have to say that this movie is the best in either category. I've always thought Costner a sub-par actor, but I couldn't imagine anyone else playing the role of Charlie. He had it down.
The rest of the cast was superb as well. Luna (Button) and Benrubi (Mose) are both destined for greatness. Gambon (Baxter) and Duval (Boss) have been around long enough to do things right. Bening (Sue) is a better (and better-looking) actress than ever before. The supporting cast, and the characters they create, all flowed together so strongly and believably that I would've watched a movie about a week in the life of the town before Mose showed up that fateful day. The shopkeeper and Percy (Jeter) particularly shined, but every single citizen of that town gave the impression they had a story to tell. But I digress, because cast and characters alone do not a movie make.
The dialog in many movies today is too geared to what the audience needs to hear. Rather than a fly-on-the-wall point of view on a realistic event, we normally get verbose exposition and other generally out-of-character dialog, so that the less intuitive viewer doesn't get left behind. In "Open Range", we're given a story. Four men and the task they must accomplish, with only the words any four men in a similar situation would say to each other. There wasn't anything directed to our tutelage alone, simply a bare-bones character drama. It felt real, like I could have been right there in the midst of things. That is the way movies SHOULD be. I applaud the creative minds behind this, and Costner, the ringmaster, above all others.
I have not seen another film that captured the beauty of the title character (the open range, nyuk nyuk) in such a light. While I'm sure that at least some of the footage was shot in a studio, and picturesque backdrops appeared to be inserted in the terrain at some points, the believability that this was 1880's "Old West" was always there. From the wide open skies and rolling hills to the pebbled creeks and fresh-built townscapes, I was thoroughly impressed.
The set/art direction weren't the only elements that capitalized on this beauty. Often, the camera operator (and undoubtedly Costner himself) had found amazing camera angles/motion to accentuate the finer elements of the sets. One such picturesque moment came in the form of an establishing shot of the cool, clear pebbled creek, shot from just inches above the surface, as the horses drank the purity of nature itself. Another shot shows the hills/mountains with lightning crashing around them as a storm billows its way to town. Was this an effects shot or not? I don't rightly know, and I was too impressed to care. The movie is beautiful.
There is also a beautifully mastered scene in which Charlie awakes from an unsettling dream and at first doesn't know the dream from reality. The use of camera motion and picture superimposition here isn't so over-the-top that it feels out of place in the rest of the "artistic" film. It's hard for someone to accomplish that.
All technical terms aside, this film was born from talent. The writers, actors, and most importantly the director knew how to make a film enjoyable. When a movie just plain works, it's because the producers have assembled a group of personalities that work well together. This movie obviously had that. I'm very much looking forward to whatever it is that Costner decides to bring us next. I have been shown the light.
9 out of 10, "classic"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In "Open Range," we are drawn to two men running from their pasts, an
aging lonely cowboy, Boss Spearman (Duvall), and his long time second
hand man Charley Waite (Kevin Costner). They drive their herd of cattle
from a vast prairie to another with their two young helpers: the giant
Mose (Abraham Benrubi), a gentle fellow who mostly works as wagon
driver and cook and Button (Diego Luna), a teenaged orphan eager to
prove himself to his elders
The plot is launched when the four free-range cowboys encounter the town boss, the merciless Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), a menacing Irish immigrant who actively hates free-grazers, and wants their herd vanished from the territory one way or another
To make his feelings known, Baxter and his henchmen severely injure the two young cowboys
Boss treats the boy's wounds himself, and then takes him, with Charley, to the town's doctor where Sue Barlow (Annette Bening), the doctor's middle-aged sister, cares for him There, in their confusion and anger, the duo realize that they're now on their way for a high noon gun battle, not only for revenge, but to protect their way of life as well
Costner's character, Charlie Waite is an enigmatic, sensitive type who does not show much emotion He has been taking orders from Boss for a decade, but their coming confrontation with Baxter and his thugs begins to reshape their relationship Charlie has a troubled violent past of which he's not proud, but it's a past which will help him in the bloody fight to come
As the story goes relentlessly toward the clash between Baxter's brutes and the two cattlemen, Sue unexpectedly catches Charley's eye She is a strong capable woman who discovers exactly what Charley is when she first meets him Charley was more than a little worried What if Sue sees his malicious side, it might scare her off
Duvall is exceptional as usual He is strong and flexible He steals the show with a charismatic portrayal of a man who exudes kindness as expressed in his concern for the wounded young boy In one of the movie's few striking moments, Boss buys an expensive Swiss chocolate from the town's general store and then offers the storekeeper a piece of it when he finds that he has never tried it himself because he can't afford it Duvall handles this scene relaxed and with all the graciousness and warmth
The film's cinematography is superb, due in part to the green, forested mountain slopes against the stunning snow-capped peaks, marked with occasional torrential thunderstorms
Personally, I didn't find it long. I've seen many great Westerns--such films as "Will Penny," "Shane," "The Unforgiven," and several other Eastwood movies spring to mind--and this was right up there with them. My thanks to Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall (of course), and Annette Bening for giving me a wonderful experience at the movies. It doesn't happen all that often anymore. To those who say, "They don't make 'em like they used to," my response is "This one's better."
The cowboys Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), Charley Waite (Kevin
Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna) are conducting
their cattle herd through the fields of the West. Boss and Spearman
have been friends for ten years, and they have an special affection and
friendship for Button, Mose and his dog Dig. Boss requests Mose to
return to a small town nearby and buy some supplies for the rest of
their journey. Mose never comes back, and Boss and Charley decides to
check what happened with him. They find Moses beaten and arrested in
the jail by the corrupt Sheriff Poole (James Russo), accused of
fighting against the men of a powerful local rancher, Denton Baxter
(Michael Gambon). Boss and Charley bring Mose to the local doctor,
Barlow (Dean McDermott), where Charley falls in love for his sister,
Sue Barlow (Annette Bening). They return to their camping, they are
attacked by Baxter's men and Mose and Dig are killed and Button is
seriously wounded. The two old cowboys return to the town looking for
justice. "Open Range" is one of the best contemporary western, with the
characters very well constructed and an engaging low paced story having
action, drama and romance. The performance of the cast, highlighting
Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner, and the direction of Kevin Costner are
magnificent. I believe in the future "Open Range" will be considered a
classic in the genre. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Pacto de Justiça" ("Pact of Justice")
A traditional, well-made western - suitable for most ages, features good guys herdin' cattle, bad guys tryin' to steal the cattle, codes of honour, a corrupt sheriff, a fantastic shoot-out, and Annette Bening being lovely in the wings. Open Range doesn't do anything particularly new, it just does it particularly well. For actor/director/producer Kevin Costner, it seems to have been a labour of love and one that has paid off handsomely. The characters are well fleshed out, it has plenty to appeal to adults (men and women) rather than being just a boys-with-guns film. The qualities of the main heroes are likeable - they value the trust, respect and confidence that is given them and realise the value of these things. Open Range is no high and mighty moraliser however; there are plenty true-to-genre one-liners, such as "You're nothing!" (grim-faced, cornered bad guy) - "Maybe so," (good guy pointing a gun at him), "but I'll still be breathing in another minute!" Towards the end of the film they also battle with their own inner demons. What starts out with all the flavour of a Boys' Own adventure (complete with cutesy dog) turns out to be a well-rounded minor classic. Long live the Western!
When this film reaches the climactic shootout, it is a real cinematic
treat. Costner has a great feel for creating and choreographing complex
action scenes. There is one wide shot in particular that contains many
actors involved in a number of separate interactions carried out in a
masterfully-planned sequence. It is worth watching several times and
paying close attention to each individual shootout going on within the
larger scene. Costner has mastered the art of filling the screen with
The cast is outstanding and the love story is compelling and not typical Hollywood. As a real Western fan, I enjoyed this one enough to watch it several times. I think the plot offers something for everyone and I think it is one of those rare films that appeals to both men and women. It is certainly worth checking out.
Why studios don't make more westerns is beyond me. Some of them are downright unwatchable like "Young Guns" and its sequel but there have been some extremely well made films like "Unforgiven" and "Tombstone" so I'm at a loss as to why more are not made. Thank you Kevin Costner! This story is about four men who are herding their cattle through a certain area and they stop near a town to get supplies. The crew is headed by Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and his second in charge is Charley Waite (Costner). They send Mose (Abraham Benrubi) to get supplies and after a day or so he doesn't return. Boss and Charley go to find him leaving Button (Diego Luna) to watch the herd. In town they find Mose beaten badly and locked up in the local jail. A rich rancher named Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) hates "Freegrazers" and tells them to take their man and keep moving. Baxter controls the sheriff (James Russo) and also has many thugs on his payroll. Back at the herd some of Baxters men have been following them so Boss has an idea of going after them instead of running. That night they confront them and smash their rifles but when they get back Mose has been killed and Button is wounded badly. They take him to the local doctor and meet his sister Sue (Annette Bening) and Charley takes a shine. Boss and Charley don't like to be told where to graze their cattle and they want revenge for the death of Mose. A final gunfight in town is inevitable and Charley reveals that he killed many men in the war. This film was directed by Costner and its very well made. He seems to have found his mark as a directer with this genre. Costner allows the story to unfold on its own terms and the pacing is deliberate which is welcomed after watching so many Hollywood films and their quick edits. The film should be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. The scenery is beautiful and their are so many shots with skylines and mountains and wide open prairies and these shots help tell the story in the film. The scenery is important and gives the film a look that helps you relate to the characters when they speak of not wanting to be told where they can go. The characters are well written and they let out things about themselves little by little as the story is told. Duvall's character is a man of high pride and also a stubborn side and he's not afraid to stand up for himself even if it means he might die. Costner plays a man with a hard past and he seems to be living his life and coming to grips with his experiences in the war at the same time. Charley states that he doesn't have a problem with killing and we believe him. The romance between Costner and Bening seems forced and Bening looks a little to old to be a woman that never married. The film goes on about 15 minutes to long and Costner has not one, but two goodbye scenes with Bening. This is a minor complaint because this is a very entertaining film and after a summer of watching hyper-kinetic Hollywood junk, It's a movie that is very welcomed. Hear that Hollywood?
Open Range is without doubt one of the best family movies I have seen
for a long time. Although not quite as good as "Dances With Wolves"
Open Range, funnily enough, not only stars Kevin Costner but is along
the same theme in as much as it tells a story about the early American
way of life. This time about the "Free Range" cattlemen and the
different hardships they had to cope with. And for once my family could
sit down and watch a movie without all the smut, swearing and extreme
violence that unfortunately, all movie makers of late, seem to think is
necessary to sell them. The storyline was simple and easy to follow at
the same time as it retold a fine piece of early American history.
Although the actors had a simple storyline to work with, I felt their performances made the movie all the more realistic. Kevin Costner in my opinion is a fine actor, but put him in with an under-rated master such as Robert Duvall, and you can't go wrong. Their easy going,straight from the hip portrayal of the main characters was one of the reasons that as soon as I had finished watching the video I rewound it and the whole family watched it again.
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