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VINE VOICEon January 31, 2009
Appaloosa as directed by Ed Harris, is a western that will appeal to most fans of the genre regardless of one's preference for the traditional vein in the mode of John Wayne or the modern interpretations like 3:10 to Yuma.

Virgil Cole (Harris) and his long-time associate Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are essentially `cleaners' of a bygone era. Appaloosa is just another dusty town in need of their particular brand of expertise, establishment of a codified rule of law - as defined by the no nonsense Cole - and eradication of the human blight that has plagued the area for the last few years, Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his despicable crew of trail vermin. While it does not take long to ascertain there will be confrontations on the horizon, the arrival in town of a young attractive widow, Allison French (played by Rene Zellweger) immediately foreshadows complications that may irretrievably alter the dynamic between the complementary partners, Cole and Hitch.

There's plenty enough action and violence for the bloodthirsty viewer and well as refined cynicism for those who appreciate the contemplative portrayal of the new age intellectual cowboy (Mortensen's understated performance is a gem, somewhat reminiscent of Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone, absent the addictiveness) but to the credit of Harris' direction and the screenplay adaptation of Robert B. Parker's novel, the film never seems to meander into the fantastical, where quite often the protagonists are seemingly invincible and infallible.
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on May 14, 2011
The horrible miscasting of Renee Zellweger. Wholly unbelievable in her role as 'Yoko' to the two-man gun-toting horse-riding Beatles.

Otherwise, this was an excellent movie. The indomitable energy that Ed Harris carries, both as performer and director, was only bolstered by the granite that is Viggo Mortensen.

Kudos to both steely jawed actors - they were absolutely perfect in their respective roles. And notice how deep Mortensen got into his role: Check out the forehead tan line from wearing a hat. That's pure Method on display, and I'm very appreciative of it. Hardcore acting there brother.

An old school cowboy narrative - and for me, it's never gone out of style. Harris does a sturdy job of creating the nascent explosive undercurrent that I've only seen Eastwood do better in a modern western.

And props to Harris for hiring Lance Henriksen. It's not an understatement to say that he's been underutilized for years - forced to take paycheck jobs instead of performing for an audience who can appreciate his talents. I do wonder if Harris made friends with him during the shooting of 'The Right Stuff'. Not all ensemble casts end up lifelong friends, but I like to think so.

This would've been an easy four-stars for me, but Zellweger's maddeningly oafish overacting is not something you can ignore. Her character is critical to the plot, and her plastic ingratiating performance detracts from the entire production. One has to wonder how Harris was conned into having her in the film, I suspect some serious arm-twisting. No way an actor's actor like him could've been that fooled by her ridiculously inflated resumé. The question is who put the pressure on for her hiring?
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on September 27, 2012
Ed Harris decided to take a stab at the western genre, and the result is not a predictable film. He directs Appaloosa and also plays Virgil Cole, a good guy gunman who hires out with his partner, Everett (Viggo Mortensen) to clean the bad guys out of Western towns. Jeremy Irons plays the bad guy in the town of Appaloosa. The woman in the story is Renee Zellweger. Harris makes good use of this fine cast to tell a story with subtlety and insight into the characters. Virgil and Everett's friendship is marked by its honesty and trust and their ability to expertly handle the complications that arise in gunfights, negotiating with townspeople and Indians, releasing hostages, and such. Their biggest challenge is dealing with the widow that Virgil falls for. Zellweger's Allison French reveals the vulnerable situation of women in such a society. What looks like superficial promiscuity on her part is actually a strong instinct for survival. The gunfights are interesting and well done, but the best part is the slow-paced dialogue and meaningful glances. A fine film.
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on December 20, 2008
A reflection on life in a reckless western village with enough modern elements to keep us anticipating every turn in the plot. The shots through the authentic looking wavy glass were cinematic brilliance. The quiet confidence of Cole the lawman mixed with his confusion over the "fairer" sex added extra enchantment. Viggo's choice pose in the conflagration near the end is ever so unique and memorable. This is a wonderful chunk of western believability and I'm proud to rate it in my Top 10!
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on October 5, 2009
Go read Roger Ebert's review.

This movie is not 3:10 to Yuma (the remake w/ Bale and Crowe). There's definitely less action. However, the film plays like you're reading a dime novel. Gritty characters. You can almost taste the dust and feel the biting wind. I'm not a big fan of Renee Zellweger. But, personal bias aside she really puts on a good performance - as does Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, AND Jeremy Irons (how can you not love that combination?)

It may be slow to some, but like I said, it plays like you're reading a dime novel.

If you liked this, you'll like David Cronenberg's "Eastern Promises" The movie does have its action sequences, but it's more a story about characters and their moral dilemmas.
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VINE VOICEon October 4, 2008
Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen star as two talented town tamers in APPALOOSA. The movie hit the big screen this weekend and I took one of my sons to the first showing early this afternoon. We both had a good time, and my trust and confidence in the stars was well deserved.

The movie is based on the novel written by bestselling author, Robert B. Parker. Parker has been writing the adventures of Spenser, a private eye born in Laramie, Wyoming, for years, and Spenser is as rough and tumble as any gunfighter in the Old West. Lately, the author has successfully dipped his quill into the Western arena.

I read the book when it came out a few years ago and had a good time with it. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the two heroes in the novel, and was pleased to see it reflected in the movie. Ed Harris plays Virgil Cole, one of the most feared and respected lawmen in the Old West. Viggo Mortensen stars as Everett Hitch, Cole's dedicated and deadly right hand man.

The book creates a tight plot line with a lot of twists and turns. When I read it, I saw how easily it could become a screenplay. Parker writes lean, muscular prose. Obviously Ed Harris saw the same thing because he negotiated the rights to star and direct in the film.

APPALOOSA starts off with a bang. Three of them, in fact. Bragg, a powerful man in the small but growing town of Appaloosa, faces the town marshal and defends two of his men that raped and killed a man and his wife. When the marshal doesn't take no for an answer, Bragg kills the marshal and his two deputies.

Virgil and Everett arrive and Harris takes advantage of those couple moments to establish sweeping shots of the desolate countryside. Harris stays primarily with the characters and the action, but there are a lot of opportunities to shoot the sweeping landscape. The action takes place in Appaloosa, outside of town, in the hills and mountains, and in another small town with Mexican architecture.

I loved the detailed Old West setting. The bar and buildings look and feels well-researched. The house Virgil is buying on the outside of town is incredibly small by today's standards, but Allie (Renee Zellweger) acts excited about having it built.

Of all the characters in the movie, Zellweger - in my opinion - has the hardest time pulling off her role. The character is complicated because she bounces between a sympathetic and naïve woman to a cold and calculating one. This type of female character often shows up in Parker's work, so long-time fans won't be surprised to watch her in action. However, Zellweger's performance actually softens the character from the book.

Parker likes showing the dichotomy between the strong, silent male and one that can be twisted around a conniving woman's little finger. Many of his characters have suffered through that in his novels. That paradigm is understated and succinct in the movie, but it still works well.

The author has also penned a sequel that came out this year, RESOLUTION. He has one more planned that will tie up Virgil and Everett's saga.

The film's action is compelling. The movie and the actors keep a lot of balls in play. The sound effects on the gunshots are especially well done. Many viewers might not be able to tell it, but the gunshots sound like heavy thumps, from coarse black powder rather than the cleaner-burning cordite all of today's rounds are made with.

There is a moment of brief nudity and the language is rough in a couple places, but not in any way that will be overly offensive. I think APPALOOSA is a modern tribute to yesterday's Western movies in a lot of ways. The heroes are brave and noble, but they're also flawed. Harris and Mortensen play those iconic lawmen to the hilt with a hint of swagger and elegance by the bushelful. If you're a Western fan, this is a movie you'll enjoy. And if you haven't seen a Western in a while, this is one you don't want to miss.
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on December 21, 2008
If you don't mind a slow burn western, Appaloosa has much to admire. The acting by both Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen is outstanding and the dialogue is believable for the most part. There is even some good humor thrown in, especially in the first half of the movie. While not as dark and gritty as Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, Ed Harris has created a western that never seems to be in a hurry. It has a nice relaxing feel to it, though the last half could have been trimmed up a bit. There isn't much action at all, and when there is, it is over in no time. Which is realistic (The real gunfight at the O.K. Corral was over in 30 seconds), but might not please the average person who paid $10.00 to see 3:10 to Yuma (2007 version) all over again.

Appaloosa is often quiet, nicely acted, sometimes funny and well worth the time of any western fan.
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VINE VOICEon January 8, 2009
Truly one of those great westerns that appears to only come along every few years. I gave this a 5 star rating because Ed managed to put together a believable western onto a solid BD (from film stock) - all while showing how to do things at a low cost.

Everyone shines through in their performances, even when nuanced to such a minimalist theme, that nothing detracts from the story. The locale was set prefect for what they were trying to accomplish, and choosing to use film instead of digital (especially with Semler at the helm) captured the needed feel in just the right way (colors, hues, etc.).

The BD offers both TrueHD and 5.1 for sound, but admittedly the bass and outer channels only get heavily used when that beautiful 8-gauge goes off (especially indoors). The picture clarity was perfect and even in the night shots around fires or indoors, the color palettes still appeared adequately.

The 4 BD docus total 30 minutes and provide plenty of great production background and historical information. The train and gun buffs will get the most out of it, as will some of the fashion interests. Dean Semler's (very prominent cinematographer) comment on knowing he is getting back to the old ways by stepping in horseh*t on the set instead of gum sums it up best. The deleted scenes should have been left in the film and would have added greatly to the urgency of what our main characters were doing, but you can't have it all (total about 10 minutes).

A re-watchable film from beginning to end, and it has been captivating people of all ages that pass through the store with the scenery and popular cast.
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on June 6, 2010
Best western I saw in years. Outstanding performances... Mortensen,Harris,Irons and Zellweger...
The story plot is as real as life itself...And you will see at the end of the movie that sometimes things are not
as they look...or may be the opposite...This was for me the main message.
The fact that I am from the River Plate makes me feel a special sympathy for Viggo Mortensen that as I said played a great role in this movie
I recommend this movie to all people interested in good cinema
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The Robert P. Parker novel of the same name is a story of late 19th Century friendship. If you've read Kipling or any of several 19th Century novelists, you'll recognize the kind of relationship. It is far more intimate on one level than anything most men would feel comfortable with today and, at the same time, more distant and respectful of boundaries.

Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch have been lawmen roving the west for a dozen years. If a town needs a sheriff or town marshall, they're for hire. Cole, in particular, is quick to resolve things with violence. Neither man is hesitant to be judge., jury and executioner when they think what they believe is the law has been violated.

They come to the town of Appaloosa where Town Marshall Jack Bell has recently gone missing. The audience knows he has been murdered by local evil doer Randall Bragg. Aside from the obviousness of his evil, not much is ever know about Bragg except that he has 20 or more men working for him who apparently are willing to kill on command. Or or the fun of it.

Obviously Cole and Everett, the newly minted Town Marshall and Deputy, will have to tke control of this situation - and through a mixture of very tough diplomacy and some shooting they do. One of Bragg's men offers to become a witness and Bragg is seized.

Perking along in the background is the mysterious Mrs. Allison French who gets off alone from the train one day, pronounces herself a widow and immediately makes a move on Cole. Everett is disconcerted by this and even more so when Allison (Allie) makes a move on him.

The tension between Cole, Everett and Allie doesn't come across as effectively in the movie as in the novel, but it is there.

While Bragg awaits trial, two gunfighters come to town. Cole says they are perhaps as good as he is.

At this point, anything else I say would be a spoiler.

Suffice it to say, that the rest of the movie is a well done 19th Century "buddy" film, not at all like "Butch Cassidy", but more like the 1930s "Beau Geste" and others.

Ed Harris, Viggo Mortenson and Jeremy Irons turn in fine performances. Renee Zellwegger is never quit believable. The story is slow, as is befitting, the setting. The relatively few action scenes are well done.

Above all, this is a film about friendship - and it is well done. Those expecting endless gunplay and violence will be disappointed.

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