Friday, October 3, 2008


“Which is how, fifteen years ago, I got to be a peace officer and Virgil Cole’s deputy. Which is why I was with him now, still carrying the eight-gauge, walking the horses down a long, shale-scattered slope toward Appaloosa.”

The town of Appaloosa is under the thumb of rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), whose men take whatever they want. After the marshal (Robert Jaregui) is killed by Bragg and his men the town council seeks outside help to solve their situation.

They enlist the help of two gun hands, Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his longtime sidekick Everitt Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) to clean up the town and take Bragg down. Cole’s mission to deliver justice is made more difficult by the arrival of a complicated woman (Renne Zellweger) and Bragg’s connections in Washington.

Western lovers should enjoy this film which pays homage in style to many old favorites. I was also impressed that much of the dialogue from Robert B. Parker‘s novel was kept in the film adding a unique voice both harsh and humorous to the proceedings.

I enjoyed the look of the film, though shot on a limited budget, which contains some good cinematography. And, on a historic note, I also appreciated that the town of Appaloosa was built on the railroad line (something which all too often wasn’t the case in many old westerns).

Although Irons isn’t asked to do much Mortensen and Harris are terrific together as a pair of classic cowboys. Most of the film’s best scenes are simple conversations between the pair. And Zellweger is well cast as the wildcard who often, sometimes meaning to and sometimes not, throws complication into the situation.

Although Appaloosa isn’t a great film it is very good and worth a look. Being a western, and not much of a shoot ‘em up a that (though the film does have a few action scenes), it’s not the type of film which will break the box office or get much of a wide release. It does have style, a good story, and some very smart (and funny!) dialogue. I’d suggest keeping your eye out for it, and, if it is playing near you, to give this one a try.

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