September 15th, 2005

Open Range

I love a good western.

And Kevin Costner's Open Range is a damn good western. It has all the basics: man with a past rides into town seeking vengeance, is redeemed by the love of a good woman and dispenses rough justice with his Winchester rifle and Colt 45. What's not to like? And the gun fight is quite possibly the most long drawn out in movie history.

Bang, bang, bang...(20 minutes elapses)...bang, bang bang, bang...

Costner is a fine character actor who attempted mid-career to turn himself into a superstar action hero and it didn't quite work. The chin is too weak, the charisma not sharp enough. Here he goes back to what he does best and gives a vanity-free performance- pegged-back and muffled and showing his age. He wears an in-period moustache and little tufty beard and allows his thinning hair to blow in the wind. Annette Bening eschews vanity too, playing her reluctant frontier virgin without make-up, while Robert Duvall, who has never bothered about his looks, is bald and crinkly and fat and totally lovable.

Costner directs. Lets hear it for Costner as a director! He gets great performances out of everyone, the pace is unfashionably slow and stately and appropriate to the material and the landscapes (The film was shot in Alberta, I think) are glorious. He's as good at the job as Eastwood is.

And that gunfight...oh, that gunfight!