Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with Kevin Costner;
'Americas Open Range' a historical journey back in
time to the real open range of the 1800s, narrated by Kevin Costner;
Deleted scenes with commentary by Kevin Costner; Storyboarding:
Open Range; Music video montage.
WHEN Kevin Costner does a Western, people tend to sit up and
take notice, as the actor has consistently demonstrated a supreme
ability to fulfil the requirements of the genre in an honest and
often thrilling way.
Take his seminal moment, Dances With Wolves, which won Oscars,
despite being dubbed Kevins Gate during the
film-making process, or, to a lesser extent, Wyatt Earp, which
provided a stylish, if overlong, insight, into one of the Wests
Heck, Costner even cut his teeth, when breaking through, in the
feel-good Western, Silverado, in which he practically rode in
and stole the show from the likes of Kevin Kline, Danny Glover
and Scott Glenn.
His latest, Open Range, which marks his third film as director,
is a similarly classy affair, an affectionate homage to the classic
Westerns of the past, which also possesses the revisionist style
of more modern fare, such as Clint Eastwoods Unforgiven.
Essentially a two-hander, between Costner and Robert Duvall,
the film finds the pair as, respectively, Charley Waite and Boss
Spearman, two cattle-men, or free-grazers, who fall
foul of a frontier towns corrupt sheriff and its powerful
rancher, and subsequently making a stand against them.
For both Charley and Boss, the open range represents a refuge
from past demons, as well as a place to roam free, and they remain
bound to each other by the disappearing code of the West
- whereby men stand up for whats right and show loyalty
to those closest to them.
When one of their cattlemen is killed, following a protracted
run-in with the henchmen of Michael Gambons corrupt rancher,
and their youngest cow-hand is severely injured, Charley and Boss
vow to set things right, riding to the nearby frontier
town to serve their own form of justice on the men they deem responsible.
In so doing, loner, Charley, finds himself falling in love with
one of the towns doctors - Annette Benings spirited
Sue Barlow - and forced to confront his troubled past, with a
view to laying down roots for the first time, while
Boss begins to consider the possibility of hanging up his own
saddle, and running a saloon. But first they must survive their
inevitable showdown with Gambon and cohorts
While certainly nothing new, in terms of structure or content,
Open Range works so well for a number of reasons, most notable
of which is the chemistry between the central partnership.
This is, first and foremost, Duvalls movie, and he strides
through it with an assured air of authority which plays up to
his considerable strengths as an actor, while Costner appears
content to sit back and largely play silent for the first half
It makes the impact of what happens in the final third all the
more note-worthy, because, by the time the two men face-off against
their enemies for the final big gunfight, you will
genuinely find yourself rooting for a satisfactory outcome.
And here, Costner does not disappoint, delivering a brilliantly
orchestrated set-piece to rival the likes of Peckinpahs
Wild Bunch, or, more recently, the thrilling showdown of Tombstone.
The only criticism is that Gambons sneering rancher isnt
given enough screen-time to conjure an overly memorable villain
(unlike Gene Hackmans turn in Unforgiven), leaving it to
James Russo to make the most of his corrupt sheriff, instead.
This is a small niggle, however, in what is otherwise a glorious
throwback to a dormant genre, made all the more notable for its
hopelessly old-fashioned emphasis on honour, bravery and doing
what a mans gotta do. Costner can, once again,
ride tall in the saddle as a film-maker of genuine worth.