Sunday, October 12, 2008
My personal movie tastes include a wide range of genres. Westerns rank in the lower echelon of my personal favorites. Every once in a while, a classic western (like 3:10 to Yuma) comes along and captures my attention. But for every 3:10 there is a Tombstone. The latter put me to sleep better than a warm cup of milk.
I had high hopes going in to Appaloosa based largely on the reviews I had seen. I figured I might be in for a let down from the very beginning. I was surprised to see that Ed Harris managed to put together a film that had a decent pace (for Westerns), some interesting plot twists and intelligent dialogue. The sub-plots were well thought out and combined to create an interesting story where the cowboy rides off into the sunset.
Appaloosa takes place in the days when City Marshals only lasted as long as their ability to be the quickest on the draw. There is always someone faster. The concept was succinctly captured by the narrator, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), who related that he isn't too knowledgeable about the law stuff. Hitch is partners with another traveling gun slinger, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris). Cole finds work as City Marshal of Appaloosa along with his partner Hitch. Hitch refers to the work as a way for a gun slinger to legally ply his trade. We have a bad guy in a black hat...Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his rag-tag gang of less capable gun-toting sidekicks, a dame Allie (Rene Zelwegger) who threatens to break up the good guys, and a tumbleweed town along the railroad that needs protection. Not an entirely new concept, but not necessarily cliche, either.
The thing that set Appaloosa apart for me was the interpersonal exchanges. The characters are fairly well developed and not always predictable. We learn that Cole strives to be educated but lacks the mental faculties to fully grasp less common language. Hitch is sort of the sidekick, but as a former Army Officer has some education under his belt. He handily provides his partner with words that escape him...a sometimes comical diversion from the story. The dialogue was rich and the exchanges belieavable. There were great uses of archaic or uncommon language. One exchange has a Judge telling a young witness to get on his horse and ride while the bees are still in the butter. Dialogue like that is hard to find. As we discover the depth of some of the characters, we invest varying degrees of concern over their welfare.
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