Hatfields & McCoys - First episode review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IF THERE’S one thing that Kevin Costner does really well it’s Westerns.
Having won Oscars for Dances With Wolves, shone in Wyatt Earp and Open Range, it’s always worth tuning in to see the actor take to the saddle. Hatfields & McCoys, for which he has already won an Emmy as best actor, is no exception.
Set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, the mini-series chronicles the murderous rivalry that took place between the two families in West Virginia and Kentucky (a true story of a feud that lasted over 30 years).
Costner plays Anse Hatfield, the leader of his family who has a calculated mind for both business and conflict, who is seen ‘deserting’ the war during its final days to spend more time with his family.
In doing so, he leaves Bill Paxton’s former brother-in-arms Randall McCoy to fight on for ‘the [Confederate] cause’… which results in his capture until the end of the war.
Upon his return home, the Hatfields are prospering while the McCoys are struggling.
To make matters worse, a psychopath Hatfield uncle (played by Tom Berenger, also on Emmy winnning form) has shot and killed Randall’s brother, while a land dispute has also ended in the forfeiture of more McCoy land to the Hatfields.
And so the seeds are sown for a bloody conflict that more often than not ends in murder – this despite the best attempts of the sitting judge (Powers Boothe, also a Hatfield) to rule by common sense.
As directed by Kevin Reynolds (who has worked with Costner before), it’s a heady brew that is shrouded in the ever-present threat of violence. And it’s gripping stuff once you can decipher the accents and have figured out just who is who (there are a lot of Hatfields and McCoys).
There’s even a star-crossed love affair (a Romeo & Juliet if you will), played by Lindsay Pulsipher and Matt Barr, whose relationship looks destined to end in tragedy. It adds a welcome heart to proceedings and a humanity that is missing – deliberately – from the worst elements of the conflict.
But therein lies the series pull so far… its acute observation of the cost of war on men’s souls. One could almost imagine that the feud was allowed to escalate in such a fasion because the men involved had become so used to fighting they knew nothing else.
Or, in the case of Costner and Paxton (both on terrific form), because of the sense of guilt and betrayal they may be feeling. Both men provide spellbinding depictions of driven men; the former guided by common sense, the latter by his belief in God. But both fallible in their own ways.
The opening two-hour episode concluded with tensions running as high as ever and the lives of several people hanging in the balance. It’s already unmissable at this point.
Hatfields & McCoys airs on Channel 5 on Thursday nights from 9pm.