Reviews: Open Range Now Playing in Uk and Europe March/April
Western Is Back
(At Least It Should Be).
Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner,
Directed by Kevin Costner
know, I thought it might happen several years ago when Robert Duvall
and Tommy Lee Jones did "Lonesome Dove". Have there ever
been a couple better movie cowboys than those two? Then I thought
it might happen when Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer did "Tombstone".
If the real Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were half as tough as they
were portrayed in that movie then, wow, bad news for the bad guys.
I was sure it would happen when Kevin Costner came out with "Dances
With Wolves", then again with his version of "Wyatt Earp".
But no. Now Im hoping, again, that western movies make a resurgence
with Costners new film "Open Range".
too many years, it seems, the western movie has been dead. I grew up
on cowboy movies. I grew up watching The Duke. Say what you will. John
Wayne may not have been the greatest actor but he sure made a good cowboy.
Many of the greats did westerns; Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory
Peck. Remember the movie "How The West Was Won"? How about
"The Magnificent Seven", still one of my all time favorites.
Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen embodied the great American western hero
as they fought against seemingly insurmountable odds, strutting their
stuff along the dusty streets of that Mexican village. When I was a
kid western shows were all over the television. We watched "Gunsmoke",
"The Big Valley", "Rawhide", "Wanted, Dead
or Alive", "Have Gun, Will Travel", " The Rifleman",
"Wagon Train", "Broken Arrow" and of course everybodys
Western movies and shows not only created some great characters like
Rooster Cogburn, Ben Cartwright, Little Joe and Hoss, Marshall Dillon,
Paladin, they also gave us many strong, heroic female leads as well.
Remember Barbara Stanwick in "The Big Valley"? She was a tough
ol gal. How about Clara Allen in "Lonesome Dove", or
Diane Lane as Lorena Wood in the same movie? Beautiful, vulnerable,
yet full of pluck.
And how about music? Western movies have given us some incredible, memorable
soundtracks too. Try this; hum the basic tune from "The Magnificent
Seven" or "Bonanza". Go ahead. See what I mean?
However, the western movie has fallen away from popularity and though
some have tried they still have not really made a comeback. I think
thats too bad. There is a song called "My Heroes Have Always
Been Cowboys" and I agree. Willie Nelson sings it and though he
didnt write it he, too, has acted in several western movies. But
who are the movie heroes of today? Vin Diesel? The "Bad Boys"?
"SWAT"? I saw "Bad Boys 2" recently with my thirteen
year old son. Okay, it was exciting and action packed, thats for
sure. But somehow it was just too unreal. In fact, it was preposterous.
Oh yeah, they saved the day and shot all the bad guys and got the pretty
girl in the end which is what we all want to see. But to me, Kevin Costners
portrayal of Charlie in "Open Range" rings more true to life.
He, too, shoots the bad guys and gets the pretty girl in the end. But
even this pretty girl is different, more natural. Annette Benning plays
an older, wiser, been around the block (or in this case, the prairie)
yet still a knockout, woman of fortitude and mettle. She doctors up
a few people in the movie and yells at the bad guy but she seems more
authentic, and hence more heroic and courageous, than that sexy young
thing in "Bad Boys 2" who we are supposed to believe is an
undercover DEA agent. Yeah, right!
There is another one like that in the new "2 Fast, 2 Furious"
movie; a young, sexy, hair always perfect, designer clothes always fitting
just right, gun totin, bad guy killin, sashaying chick.
How about the Lara Croft movies? Oh Angelia Jolie always looks great,
even when shes kickin some bad dudes butt. I dont
know, folks, give me Annette Benning any day, even with the mussed hair
and the smudges.
I think Robert Duvall has perfected the art of acting as a cowboy. His
Gus McRae in "Lonesome Dove" is one of the best, most fully
rounded, yet simple characters in the western canon. And talk about
true grit. Gus McCrae and Captain Woodrow Call were some of the toughest
hombres in the west. Now he gives us Boss in "Open Range".
He looks the part, acts the part, curses and spits and makes us believe
that he is genuine. The characters in this movie are genuine in that
they are flawed and unsophisticated yet caring and heroic, shining diamonds
in the rough.
I enjoyed watching "Open Range" In the midst of all of the
action packed, fantastical, summer block busters that are slapping us
all in the face it is a cinematic, well presented movie. So, is the
western back? Maybe. I hope so.
© Jeffrey Beyl September 2003
all rights reserved