When I saw Appaloosa last night, there were several disorienting moments where I thought Harris’s "Virgil Cole" was Eastwood’s "William Munny" from Unforgiven. But they’re both incredible actors, so the good news is that it didn’t really matter that I kept mistaking Ed for Clint. The even better news is that Viggo Mortensen (he’ll always be Aragorn to me!) rocked his performance as Cole’s sidekick Everett Hitch. And the best news of all is that I was far more impressed by the subtly moving tale of Cole and Hitch’s friendship than I was irritated by Renée Zellweger’s turn as the mysterious widow Allie French. Renée usually has the power to ruin movies for me, so I’m relieved that wasn’t the case this time around.
All that being said, I’m still no fan of Westerns. Oddly enough, I’ve seen three in the past six months: The Assassination of Jesse James (despised it), 3:10 to Yuma (enjoyed it) and now Appaloosa. While Appaloosa held my attention for nearly two hours, it was no 3:10 to Yuma. There was less action and less eye candy in Appaloosa (Christan Bale and Russell Crowe versus Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen? Sorry, there’s no match… only because Viggo sported a ridiculous goatee as Hitch (see poster)) and the story of two renegades trying to keep order in a small town (called Appaloosa, naturally) was simply not that exciting.
I think the slow pace of the film comes through in its trailer:
Still, if you usually enjoy Westerns, I’m positive that you would deem Appaloosa to be worth the price of admission. It’s the kind of movie that you find yourself settling into — the leisurely pace of frontier life depicted on-screen has a calming effect which is only enhanced by Hitch and Cole’s relaxed conversations about their plans to bring law enforcement to the Wild West.
The shoot ‘em up scenes are few and far between… but when they arrive, they don’t lack in intensity.
The man who brings the most drama to the town of Appaloosa is Randall Bragg, played brilliantly by Jeremy Irons. Bragg is a wealthy rancher who considers himself to be above the law. That attitude, of course, does not go over well with Cole and Hitch. Throw in a handful of nervous townsmen (including Timothy Spall, aka Wormtail from Harry Potter 3!) who are unsure of Cole’s peacekeeping methods, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Appaloosa (based on the Robert B. Parker novel of the same name) is a movie I could take or leave. I liked it more than I thought I would, but I couldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have a particular fondness for Westerns. However, if you’re up for a story that’s just as much about the bonds of friendship as it is about gun slinging and score-settling in the late 1800s, you might want to check it out. It’s currently in limited release, but expands nationwide on Friday.
If you do choose to see Appaloosa, then you might as well hang around for the end credits, which feature a folksy song that was co-written and sung by none other than Ed Harris himself! He acts, he produces, he directs, he writes, he sings… I’m calling it right now: he’s going to try his hand at dancing in his next film.