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Open Range - Preview

Story by: Jack Foley

LONG gone are the days when Kevin Costner rode high in the Hollywood saddle.

Box Office disasters such as The Postman, Dragonfly and the straight-to-video, 3,000 Miles to Graceland have done nothing to raise a reputation that became tarnished following the messy Waterworld debacle.

Yet Costner does still command respect as both an actor and director, thanks to earlier work such as Dances With Wolves (his memorable Oscar-winner), and equally enjoyable No Way Out. Then there was The Untouchables, of course.

Well, the wily artist is returning to a genre that has previously been kind for his latest directorial opus, Open Range.

Based on 'The Open Range Men', by Lauran Paine, the film centres around Charley Waite (Costner), and Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), who freegraze their cattle across the vast prairies of the West, sharing their friendship forged by a steadfast code of honor and living a life unencumbered by civilization.

When their wayward herd forces them near the small town of Harmonville, the cowboys encounter a corrupt Sheriff (James Russo) and kingpin rancher (Michael Gambon) who govern the territory through fear, tyranny and violence.


Boss and Charley subsequently find themselves drawn towards the inevitable showdown as they are forced to defend the freedom and values of a lifestyle that is all to quickly vanishing.

Amidst this turmoil, life suddenly takes an unexpected turn for loner Charley, when he meets the beautiful and warm-spirited Sue Barlow (Annette Bening), a woman who embraces both his heart and his soul.

The ensuing journey will force both men to confront and conquer their own internal demons.

Owing more in style, both in theme and direction, to Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, rather than the showy heroics of Costner's own Silverado, Open Range promises to be a ponderous, earthy affair which looks deliberately designed to saddle up for the Oscar season.

It also marks a timely revival for the Western genre, what with the likes of The Alamo, The Missing and Cold Mountain making their way into cinemas for The Fall.

Costner felt drawn to the project because of the 'absolute realism' contained within the script' - a realism which the cast strived to achieve throughout.

So much so, in fact, that Duvall fell from a horse while training for his role, breaking several ribs, according to a spokeswoman for the veteran actor.

The movie has been pencilled in for an August release date in America and should follow in the UK sometime after that, or in early 2004.

We're hoping that Open Range marks a long overdue return to form for Costner, having enjoyed his previous Western ventures (including Wyatt Earp) immensely.

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