With a whole slew of movies that opened this weekend, It was certainly difficult deciding on what movie Peter and I would check out. Where I figured we’d end up seeing Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Peter reminded me of a movie I’d totally forgot about, the well received yet limited release western Appaloosa, a nice little gem unfortunately caught in the rough of some much bigger releases. Going in I really didn’t know what to expect but looking back I have no regrets.
Set in the 1880s in New Mexico I believe, Appaloosa tells the story of two friends, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) who are hired to defend a small town from a murderous rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his goons. With their hands tied in keeping the town safe and not to mention some romantic tension from the arrival of an attractive widow (Renee Zellweger) Virgil and Everett’s friendship is ultimately put to the test in this charming old fashioned western.
Opting for a much lighter, comedic tone in many of the social sequences Appaloosa still has it’s fair share of tense standoffs. A well photographed film Appaloosa is a pleasant mix of contemporary westerns and the old fashioned westerns of the 50s and 60s. Ed Harris makes for a likable lead while still keeping as cool as a cucumber and the soft spoken Viggo is an excellent choice for Harris’ quite yet courageous companion… Actually the film has a pretty damn ensemble of actors. Jeremy Irons delivers as usual in the role of the devious Randall Bragg, Renee Zellweger adds a nice bit of cheer, Timothy Spall of Harry Potter and Sweeney Todd fame is some nice comic relief, and the always intimidating Lance Henriksen is tough as nails as one of Harris’ deadly rivals.
The action is tight and suspenseful, the dialogue is sharp and the story, which may occasionally ramble, is a classic western tale right from the pages of Robert B. Parker’s novel. One of the only aspects working against this feature would probably be the pacing. A few scenes dragging on a little too long and the mood and structure at times is a bit puzzling. It was actually pretty surprising to see the film was only 114 minutes once the ending credits finally rolled. Definitely one of those movies where you really have no idea where it’s going to end and I think that tended to be distracting.
All in all if you like westerns or even just watching Viggo Mortensen act bad-ass, this is pretty good. Ed Harris definitely has skill as a filmmaker/screenwriter to go along with his already impressive acting talents and in the realm of modern day westerns this is a solid entry.