Open Range

A Film Review By Jason L. King

Rating: Rated R for violence.
Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Benning
Directed By:Kevin Costner

Final Grade:

Movies are full of mistakes. Whether you are in the business or in a film there are always mistakes to be made. Many people sit in films and look for those mistakes in movies, just so they can feel like a king even if it was only a quick sighting of a power line in the “Count of Monte Cristo” or a small dot that is supposedly a car in “The Lord of the Rings.” In the business of reviewing movies, mistakes are made too. Often times your loyalties to particular actor winds up effecting your overall perception of a film. A few years ago I hailed Dragonfly as a great movie. A Year later watching it in it’s mediocrity I still find enjoyment in it but realize my initial grade was indeed a mistake. For the last few years my fellow critics have scoffed at my expense telling me that Costner was a terrible actor and that they would rather gnaw off their own arm rather than watch any of his films. With the general public standing by their side after Costner’s recent slew of “too long and too boring” to watch movies, I couldn’t really take a strong stand against them. So when a new Costner flick came along, it took little time for The Mike to begin poking fun at me again and told me to stir up the middle age woman in me again and go out and praise the newest Costner flick. And so here goes nothing, I plan to do just that.

Costner teams up with the aging Robert Duvall in his latest flick and returns to the one genre of film that made him famous in the first place, Dances with Wolves. Costner and Duvall play the roles of cattle herders who stumble across a town that doesn’t really enjoy the company of “Free Grazing” cattle ranchers. And when a group of bandits decide to make an example of them to the rest of the town, Duvall and Costner waste no time to set things right, even if it ends in death.

Now I know I’ve praised Costner time and time again. Is his character any different than anything else he has ever done? Not really. Costner’s acting depends on being a man of few words, and although many people will grumble about his emotionless acting, I praise it because he plays the emotionless character so well. Costner tries to use this to his advantage in this film, and it works to a certain extent. However when he does speak it sometimes almost seems to be nothing more than a slew of Hollywood dialogues rather than what his character would have actually said. His dialogue a little forced at times, yet is still does the trick.

Our Real hero in Open Range is Robert Duvall. I was let down earlier this year in “Assassination Tango” but Duvall didn’t let me down in this one. The gifted old timer takes no time in establishing himself in the very first scene and carries you with him the entire way. Duvall demands the attention every time he is on the screen. His performance is golden, and proves once again that he can be a movie god. He simply steals the scene every time he is in it, and even overpowers our headlining star, Costner.

Where Costner lacks in acting he picks up in his directing. The film is wonderfully shot, filled with a wide range of beautiful landscapes and really brings about a “western” feel to the film. Costner keeps his eye on his characters as well, giving us just enough info to tease our imaginations and keeping us interested until the very end. It’s something that is hard to do in a western that isn’t filled with gunfights and dance hall girls.

And don’t be frightened by the runtime, It may be over two hours but it moves quite quickly. Most Costner films have a “dragging” point where you want to get up out of your seat and leave, but this flick keeps everything moving smoothly and quickly. With the performances you get sucked in quickly and lose your mind and sense of the time fairly quickly. In fact I will go as far as saying this may be one of the most enjoyable and engrossing since Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves or for you crazy Costner fans out there The Bodyguard (which even though I like the film, it is a little lengthy).

In Hollywood the Western is normally attempted by many but failed by most. Many Westerns head straight to video shelves without being noticed. Even Star Trek’s Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) has tried his hand at a cowboy flick or two. But they always blow over like a tumble weed in a seemingly ghost town like section of video stores called “Westerns.” Costner does his best to rekindle the western and the days of old, but his success are pretty uncertain. Even though the film may be good, a slew of bad movies can kill a career. Sadly enough in Costner’s case he has his share of those and so it will keep the numbers lower. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go check it out. Costner does a wonderful job of bring spark into the genre once again, and tries to breathe life back into the classic Hollywood cowboy flick by using beautiful scenery, colorful characters filled with depth, and a style that is a joy to watch.

Once again, I’ll stick my neck out for Costner, this time with a little more pride. His directing and the performances are worth your cash far more than a lot of other things he has done. In fact, Open Range may be the first western to hit my DVD collection. If it might be worth $20 for me in a few months, then it must be worth the $6 ticket for you, don’t you think?

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