2.27.2006

REVIEW: Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003)

Two men with histories kept secret even from each other have been living by their own rules for ten years, away from developed society. Through a growing conflict spawned by a minor event, however, they will stand against a corrupt law enforcer to uphold justice in a small country town. Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner, who also directs, star in this unique take on the Western film.

This reserved yarn was a long anticipated treat. It starts slow with patient character introductions and beautifully captured pastoral landscapes, soon picking up into a quiet yet captivating battle for what is right.

The involvement of Kevin Costner in any film, particularly one he helms, is often a reason for hesitation going in. His good performances (Thirteen Days, 3000 Miles to Graceland) are few in number, while his lesser ones are abundant and often unbearable. He succeeds here, not being a distraction in any way, while also skillfully directing the piece.

Despite Costner's achievement, the true commander of the range is Duvall. He is consistently impressive and makes for a highly memorable, mature hero. The remainder of the cast holds up to standard featuring excellent shows from Annette Benning, Michael Gambon and the late, great Michael Jeter.

Reflecting the film's paced liftoff, it takes some time to appreciate the lead characters. For quite a while they spout cowboy colloquialisms and stubbornly involve themselves where there seems to be no reason to do so. Only when we come to learn more of their natures and intentions do we really come to follow them gladly along their paths.

If you are in the mood for a calm and original cowboy film, Open Range, with a considerable running time of 140 minutes, is perfect for you. It's not a must-see but a most certainly worthy selection that I, for one, greatly enjoyed.

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