Dave White
Appaloosa Review

Dave's Rating:

4.5

...part High Noon, part Lethal Weapon with some post-Brokeback Mountain...

Who’s In It: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Spall

The Basics: Hired guns Ed and Viggo mosey into Appaloosa—because that’s the only way you’re allowed to walk in a place with a name like that—and aim to clean it up after very very very bad guy Jeremy Irons takes control of the place. It’s part High Noon, part Lethal Weapon with some post-Brokeback Mountain heightened awareness of what it means when your closest companion is someone of the same sex.

What’s The Deal: There are modern westerns that reach for artistic importance like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and then there are the ones like 3:10 to Yuma that don’t need nothin’ but a good time and some Peckinpah-splattery shoot outs. This one’s more like the latter and director and star Ed Harris makes sure that he and Mortensen are given plenty of sly married-couple banter to deadpan back and forth. So if you can deal with that fact that portions of it (basically everything in between the short bursts of violence) are like watching paint dry you’ll have a reasonably satisfying genre experience.

The Problem Of Renee Zellweger: She ain’t bad here. It’s not her acting that’s the issue. In fact, she’s probably the most interesting character in the movie because her job is to be the dry-eyed widow lady who romances Ed Harris and then—well, I won’t spoil it. But her amorality and lack of loyalty is like a jolt of modern attitude in a genre where that’s usually not how the ladyfolk behave. The issue is whatever it is off-camera that she’s (allegedly) allowing to be done to her face. Who knows what it is, if anything. But she gets squintier and shinier and more weird-cheeked as time goes on and there’s going to come a tipping point where it’s all you notice. And then Empire Records will be your fondest memory.

The Unproblem Of Jeremy Irons: Not counting Reversal of Fortune and Dead Ringers, where he was psycho but still somewhat effete, why did it take this long to cast this guy as a super badass murderer? Because he’s great. Totally worth the ticket price.

Cinematography Junkie Alert: Sweeping New Mexico vistas included here. It’s all brown and gray, of course, but that’s still kind of pretty to look at.

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