Kevin Costner's career has been in a freefall for what seems like just about
forever. Will OPEN RANGE, in which he directs and costars with Robert
Duvall, be what it takes finally to get his career in ascendance once again?
Sadly, it probably won't. But it should.
A classic western tale set in the 1880s, the movie is not only one of the
best of the few Westerns made recently, it's also one of the finest
Westerns, period. It's a straightforward tale about the need for frontier
justice when there is none other available. The sound effects editing are
awesome, making you literally feel the power of the old firearms. It's also
quite honest in showing their inaccuracies. Shooting, even at close range,
doesn't mean you will necessarily hit the target, or anything for that
When we meet Boss Spearman (Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner), they are a
couple of free grazers -- cattle owners who legally let their cattle graze
on open pastures that they don't own -- who are passing nearby a very
inhospitable town run by a evil rancher named Denton Baxter (Michael
Gambon). When Denton and his men cause serious harm to come to Mose
(Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna), the lovable, big bear of a man
and the wisp of a young lad who work for Boss, Boss and Charley go back into
town to make things right. Since Denton owns the local sheriff (James
Russo), Boss and Charley are forced to resort to their guns to dispense
their own rough justice.
Before things get seriously out of hand, and even after they do, Boss and
Charley demonstrate what good friends are like. They share long held
secrets and keep a few until the end, which turns into a classic
confrontation rather like GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL or HIGH NOON. Along
the way, the two men show genuine warmth and concern for each other, while
respecting each other's need for privacy. They are quite funny too, such as
the time when they decide that they have a grudge against God for what has
happened to Mose and Button. Another humorous incident is an hilarious
twist on a dead man's last request.
The cinematography is gorgeous, the sound effects of the thunder, the rain
and the gunfire are outstanding and the story is touching and heartfelt.
About the film's only flaw is a needless romance involving Annette Bening as
a doctor's assistant and relative. Bening is excellent in a part that would
have been better left unwritten. The film also goes on about ten minutes
past a perfect ending point. These points are both nits, and the film is
wonderful as released. If you've ever loved a Western, you're going to want
to see OPEN RANGE.
OPEN RANGE runs 2:15. It is rated R for "violence" and would be acceptable
for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes