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In Marshal Virgil Cole and deputy Everett Hitchs line of work, you shoot quick, you shoot clean, and you reload straightaway. No remorse. No looking back. No feelings. Feelings get you killed. Paired as rivals in A History of Violence, Ed Harris (who also directs, produces and co-scripts) and Viggo Mortensen stand together as longtime friends and for-hire peacekeepers Cole and Hitch in this character-driven, bullet-hard Western based on Robert B. Parkers novel. Blood will spill in the town called Appaloosa.
The Western has been an endangered species, on and off, for something like 40 years now. Welcome to Appaloosa, Ed Harris's film of the Robert B. Parker novel--first because it exists at all, but even more because Harris as star, director, and co-screenwriter (with Robert Knott) has managed to bring it to the screen with no hint of fuss or strain, as if the making of no-nonsense, copiously pleasurable Westerns were still something Hollywood did with regularity. Harris plays Virgil Cole, one of those ace gunfighter-lawmen whose name need only be mentioned to make a saloon go still. Cole and his shotgun-toting partner Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) accept a commission to enforce law and order in the New Mexico town of Appaloosa. That basically means protect it from rapacious rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons, looking right at home on the range), who murdered the previous town marshal like swatting a fly. Life becomes complicated when, about the time Bragg has been jailed to await trial, a fancy-dressing piano player calling herself Mrs. French (Renée Zellweger) steps down off the train. Cole commences to have feelings, and as he ruefully reminds Hitch, "Feelin's can get ya killed."
In his second directorial effort (following the 2000 biopic Pollock), Harris takes his cue from novelist Parker's often deadpan-comic touch, allowing action and character to accumulate in accordance with an overall eccentric rhythm. (The film's main disappointment is that it would benefit from more running time to allow things to stew a bit longer, especially in the second half.) The character work is choice, from the moment Tom Bower, James Gammon, and Timothy Spall step into view as Appaloosa's civic leaders; the director's father Bob Harris contributes a cameo as a mellifluous-tongued circuit judge, and an age-thickened Lance Henriksen turns up midfilm as gunman Ring Shelton, trailing affability and menace. In collaboration with Dances With Wolves cameraman Dean Semler, Harris sets up shots and scenes in such a way that we often see into and out of Appaloosa's various buildings simultaneously, to excellent dramatic and atmospheric effect, and there's a thrillingly vertical dynamics to a scene involving a train at an isolated water stop. The action is lethal when it needs to be, but never dwelt upon. "That was over quick," Hitch observes after one gun battle. Cole's response says it all: "Everybody could shoot." --Richard T. Jameson
Well cast, well written treatment of Robert B. Parker's novel.Published 9 days ago by Gordon Macklin
Watch this several times a year. Great sound track, make sure you listen to song at end, Ed Harris does it. Great double barrel shotgun in movie, every body should have one :)Published 12 days ago by David W. McDaris
Definitely enjoyed this movie. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are great together. Well done!Published 23 days ago by Julie Johnson
Best thing since Lonesome Dove, they need to make Resolution, Brimstone and Blue Eyed Devil movies too.Published 1 month ago by joe scaglione
All the wild and rough west.
Law men restoring order.
Seems about as close as you can get without being there in time.
Love the acting; however the story moves slowly and we never did finish it. It is a great book; but the movie doesn't follow through.Published 1 month ago by Stargazer Trading