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Open Range
3/5
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Kevin Costner
scr Craig Storper
with Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi, Michael Jeter, James Russo, Dean McDermott, Kim Coates, Herb Kohler, Peter MacNeill
release US 15.Aug.03, UK 19.Mar.04
Touchstone
03/US 2h25

Home on the range: Costner and Duvall.

bening gambon luna
Open Range - Duvall Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
Actor-director Costner returns to his Dances With Wolves glory days for another sprawling period epic. Harking back to classical Westerns, with a subtle but integral twist, film is intriguing and clever enough to keep us gripped, even though nothing very surprising happens.

Boss Spearman (Duvall) is a free grazer--driving his herd of cattle across the open range with his three hired hands: veteran sidekick Charley (Costner), dopey-chubby-loyal Mose (Benrubi), hothead-teen Button (Luna). But the times they are a-changin', and the avaricious landowner (Gambon) in a nearby town doesn't like these freeloaders stealing his grass! So he sends some hired goons to rustle them up. In their confusion and anger, Boss and Charley realise that they're now headed for a high-noon confrontation in Main Street. But before that happens they find a few local allies, including a jittery livery owner (Jeter) and a woman named Sue (Bening) who nurses their wounds ... and clearly wants to do a whole lot more with Charley.

This is a pure, corn-fed Western, full of the kind of dialog these uneducated people would really speak. This is a remarkable achievement for screenwriter Storper, even if it sounds a bit goofy and sweet to our ears. There's not a whiff of cynicism--from constant shots of cute dogs to adorable sparks of desire between Charley and Sue. That said, the film is never sentimental or saccharine; if anything, this cow-poke charm makes it feel strangely realistic. Meanwhile, Costner does everything he can to otherwise turn the genre inside out, using vivid colours and witty set pieces, then inverting the standard premise so the interlopers are the good guys. He also stages and photographs the climactic shootout in a startlingly edgy way that puts us right in the middle of the confusion, but never loses us. Performances are quite good, although everyone seems a bit too relaxed (with the exception of the late Jeter, who clearly had too much coffee between takes). And in the end the only problem with the film is that it doesn't really have much to say, besides a gentle comment on corporate greed and being open to change in life. Nothing wrong with this, but after two and a half hours, you kind of hope for something a bit more powerful to go home with.

cert 12tbc themes, violence 8.Jan.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Open Range Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I have decided Kevin Costner does best when he does not do it all - and I liked this movie. There are some real touching scenes - some sweet ones and some gruesome ones. Costner plays a man with a past, working a free range herd with Robert Duvall and two others. The bad guys want to fence in the range, not allowing others to graze their herds wherever they want. They want to own the open range, a concept not understood too well by the open range good guys. The plot is simple, the story no doubt one that occurred many times in our history, and the movie does a wonderful job of showing how it was at the time. We really enjoyed this movie, and I would recommend seeing it on the big screen." (30.Aug.03)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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