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Paired as rivals in A History of Violence, Ed Harris (who also directs, produces and co-scripts) and Viggo Mortensen stand together as friends and for-hire peacekeepers Cole and Hitch in a character-driven, bullet-hard Western based on Robert B. Parkers novel. As the woman who arrives in town with only a dollar and a keen sense of survival, Renée Zellweger adds feelings things that can get you killed to a quest to bring murderer Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice. Blood will spill in the town called Appaloosa.]]>
- Commentary by director Ed Harris and screenwriter/producer Robert Knott
- Additional scenes with selectable Ed Harris/Robert Knott commentary
- Bringing the Characters of Appaloosa to Life
- Historic Accuracy of Appaloosa
- The Town of Appaloosa
- Dean Semler's Return to the Western
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Top Customer Reviews
"The Searchers" and "High Noon," are as good, for instance, as any movie ever made both for the quality of the writing and for the nuanced performances of the actors. Those two films, and a handful of others, are more than cowboy movies featuring iron-jawed heroes who are quick on the draw. Instead, they are psychological profiles of the men, and women, who settled the West at a time when "the law" was often non-existent in any real sense. They are films that transcend any specific genre.
"Appaloosa" isn't quite in that same category but it is an excellent movie; one that deals realistically with the tenor of the times. It features great writing, wonderful performances - especially by Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen - and beautiful cinematography.
The premise is straightforward. A small New Mexico town is under the thumb of a greedy rancher who runs roughshod over the people and businesses of Appaloosa. The rancher - nicely played by Jeremy Irons - is, among other things, a killer who has murdered the town marshal and his two deputies. In response to their murders, the town's leaders contract with Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Mortensen) to bring him to justice and end his reign of terror.
Cole and Hitch are itinerant "lawmen" who have worked together for a dozen years. They are not idealists and they hold no illusions about who they are and what they do. Killing is not something they enjoy, nor is it something they are conflicted about; it is simply what they do when it needs to be done. They are not especially nice people but they are good at their jobs.
And they are friends.
Harris and Mortensen, who are longtime friends in real life, bring that sense of brotherly comradeship to the screen in subtle ways. Their characters have been together long enough, have seen and done enough, that they understand one another completely. They have been partners for so long - and been in enough life-and-death situations together - that they have no need for long conversations; a nod here, a facial expression there, and a small gesture are all they really need to communicate.
But change, in the form of a shapely widow played by Renee Zellweger, is in the wind. She arrives in town with a dollar in her purse and no prospects. Almost without thinking, Cole helps her get a job as a piano player at the town's only hotel after a conversation in which she embarrasses him when he asks if she is a whore.
Cole is fascinated by her for reasons that he can't quite explain. She is unlike any woman he has ever met in the past and it's not long before he - quite uncharacteristically - begins courting her. In the end that leads to trouble but to reveal any more of the plot would spoil the movie and it's not my intention to do that. I will simply say that Zellweger's character - Allie French - is a very complicated woman.
"Appaloosa" is what I would call a "quiet" movie. The dialogue is not verbose; the humor is understated, and the gunfights are over in a flash. The closing scene is as dramatic as any I've seen in the past 20 years and illustrates perfectly the relationship that Hitch and Cole have developed over their many years together.
In short, this is a 5-star film and a movie I highly recommend.