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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ed Harris + Viggio Mortensen = An Old Fashioned Western With A Few Modern Twists!, April 10, 2009
This review is from: Appaloosa (DVD)
Freelance law enforcers Virgil Cole, (Ed Harris), and Everett Hitch, (Viggio Mortensen), ride into the New Mexican town of Appaloosa one afternoon in 1882. Close-up shots reveal that neither man moves so much as a muscle on his face as each surveys the near-empty streets. And such stern faces they have!! Obviously, these two are not men to be messed with. Cole, a hardened Civil War vet, with a hair-trigger temper, has been hired by Appaloosa's local leaders to act as marshal until the area is rid of Randall Bragg, (Jeremy Irons), a wealthy rancher. New to the territory, Bragg wants to take over the region's copper mines. He and his sidekicks are a grungy band of murderous thugs. They terrorize the small town's residents, making their own rules and disrupting business as usual, often with a lethal effect. When Apaloosa's former sheriff and two deputies rode out to pay Bragg a "visit," the villain shot and killed all three men. So, Cole and Hitch are hired, and are given power to impose order, by whatever means necessary.

Everett Hitch is the deputy with a capital "D," and the film's narrator. A West Point-trained ex-cavalry officer, he has been working with Cole, traveling and cleaning up the frontier, for many years. I was really drawn to this character of many contrasts. Highly educated, articulate, introspective, and clearly a leader of men, he gave up soldiering because he was tired of fighting in the Indian Wars. Yet, Hitch makes his living through violence - shooting and killing within the limits of the law, except for once. Virgil Cole, on the other hand, is explosive, a self-taught man, who is almost the exact opposite of his partner. The two, however, share a great rapport and are completely at ease with one another. This relationship is what pulls the movie together and makes it work. Cole and Hitch are men of honor who have a deep and abiding respect for each other - friends as well as partners - sort of like Butch Cassidy and Sundance without the sense of humor! Actually, there are wryly comic moments, mostly banter, in between bursts of gunfire, and though not laugh-out-loud funny, these amusing moments do provide a break from the tension.

At this point, a lady enters the picture. Don't they always? Renee Zellweger plays Allison, (Allie), French, whose arrival coincides with the lawmen's by a day or so. Both are attracted to the lovely, refined widow, with only a dollar to her name, but Virgil wins the gal, "supposedly." He even gets her a job, playing piano at the local hotel. Allie is quite different from the "whores and squaws" both men usually associate with. There are few "ladies" in this part of the world. While Everett is tempted, he doesn't even make a play for Allie, seeing that his partner is smitten. Everett seems to place his partner's welfare before his own, without appearing overly altruistic. Allie's personality is disturbing and complex, but I will remain mum on the subject from here on - no spoilers.

The tension builds between Bragg and Cole, with Bragg trying to reach an accommodation while Cole remains implacable in his goal to bring the outlaw to justice. When a witness to the killings of the sheriff and deputies comes forward and agrees to testify, Bragg is finally arrested and brought to trial. The story and major conflicts really begin to pick-up pace at this point. Each character reveals more of his/her personality as the action gets rougher and tougher. I found the ending to be surprising and somewhat bittersweet.

The cinematography is outstanding!!!! Kudos to Australian photographer Dean Semler, who worked on "Dances With Wolves" and the TV mini-series "Lonesome Dove." There are some shots which are amazingly beautiful and worth the price of admission, or the cost of a rental, on their merit alone.

Ed Harris acts, directs, and produces "Apploosa" which is based on Robert B Parker's western novel of the same name. Harris also co-wrote the screenplay.

I love a well made Western...and this is one with a few twists. Recommended!
Jana Perskie
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 22, 2010 10:14:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2010 10:18:25 PM PDT
Dusty Roads says:
Wow ! - Somebody >> YOU << noticed that there are other aspects to a movie such as {the scenery, or camera work} stuff like that. There are artists on every level of a film production that have their signature on the end-result of a total film production. Obviously the background music is very-important too. Sound effects, wardrobe, makeup, and whatever else, they all play their roles of adding details that enhance the end product to the degree of their quality. I haven't seen this film. Your review helps push me towards going for it, and your mentioning some quality beautiful shots as being of great worth ..... is an aspect I pay attention too. Nicely worded review - with many aspets covered. A good day to you from the other side, Pacific Coast :^)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2010 7:29:29 AM PDT
Hi Dusty - thanks so much for your comment. The screen write messaged me, to my great surprise, and said he really liked the review also. Great film!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 8, 2010 9:22:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 8, 2010 10:32:57 PM PDT
Dusty Roads says:
My report back to you: I purchased and viewed ! I have a number of old Westerns from the past which I really appreciate, and they hang in my mind as measuring sticks to judge others by - 'somewhat.' I was skeptical about this movie, I couldn't quite force myself to think of Ed Harris in a Western role, he got type-cast, pidgeonholed in my thinking from his past roles - of those much different type characters he played. Just to sum up my say here, I was pleasently suprised what a really-good film this is. Very realistic in the way a movie genrally trys to be realistic. Everything you pointed out ... I agree with now - with having seen it. Quite a piece of work in words you put together for your review above ! Anyway - I thought a reply would be appreciated considering all your writing and thinking about this. A good day to you. Gary <> And PS: By chance have you ever seen "Jeremiah Johnson" with Robert Redford ? I highly recommend it. Having said that, I am well aware of how differently all of us are in our viewpoints. So, whatever its worth ? Other Westerns I prize are: The Big Country, Shane, Hombre, Open Range. Of these I can comprehend the ones a woman might find more appealing, as compared to what a male might see in a story. And I really want to mention one called "Heartland" with Conchatta Ferrel and Rip Torn. There are reviews on Amazon that would cover a review of this movie better than what I would just splash here in brevity. Sorry, I guess I never got over show & tell day - from my gradeschool years. Here - I do it again : ) (Been to NYC three brief times in the past. Hardly time enough to experience other burroughs a little, there's lots more than Manhattan - for a more thorough experience. But, I have Rick Burn's, PBS production of "New York," (city history) which is defintely very good to the extent that it is. Well as they say, "enough already")

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2010 8:21:26 AM PDT
Thanks so much for your comment, Gary. Have a great weekend! Jana
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