Probably the most appealing aspect of APPALOOSA is the caliber of talent involved. Ed Harris has always been a powerfully underrated actor in my book (and decent director with POLLOCK) and here he’s quite the surprising badass as a no nonsense sheriff. And thankfully he’s got great and subtle chemistry with his partner in crimefighting (and HISTORY OF VIOLENCE costar) Viggo Mortensen, who sports an amazing moustache-goatee combination and is never without his 8-gauge. Mortensen can be impressive without saying much; I don’t have to tell you that. Add to that Jeremy Irons as the main baddie and the great Lance Henriksen in a small role and you’ve got quite the cast. And with verbal showdowns between all these guys, some of the talking parts are as entertaining as the gunfights.
The problem that severely holds back APPALOOSA from being a great movie as opposed to a good western is Renee “Sourface” Zellweger. The actress sticks out like a sore thumb in the Old West, and she is not convincing or appealing as the love interest, especially when she predictably comes to being in peril. And since her character is a plot device that a good portion of the film hinges on, her lack of likeability seriously harms all the positive things APPALOOSA has going for it.
The movie probably could’ve used a bit more editing as it loses some steam in its final act, but I dug the conclusion quite a bit. That helped me to leave the film on a good note, but a bit of recasting with the female lead could’ve done it wonders.
Commentary by Ed Harris and co-writer Robert Knott: Harris talks lightly but knowledgably about his film. You can tell he has a proud interest in it as he explains what the accomplished. Knott stays pretty quiet throughout. Not an entertaining commentary per se, but if you enjoyed the material there’s something to be taken from this.
Deleted Scenes (12:03): A few extra moments that build up the characters and town a little more. In commentary by Harris and Knott, they allude to a director’s cut with more “good stuff” in it. I already thought the film ran a little long, so I’ll skip that.
Bringing the Characters of APPALOOSA to Life (7:33): Harris and other cast and crew members discuss each other and what drew them to the project. Harris defends Zellweger’s casting, but I still don’t agree.
Historic Accuracy of APPALOOSA (10:21): A piece about the edition to detail when it comes to research, production design, costumes, etc.
Town of APPALOOSA (5:08): A look at creating the titular town from a production design standpoint. As a fan of the west, it’s cool to see the thought going in to it.
Dean Semler’s Return to the Western (5:17): Harris gushes about the director of photography and then the man himself talks about his experiences shooting a western, especially his return to using film after shooting his last few films on HD.
Extra Tidbit: Diane Lane was originally cast in Zellweger’s role. That would’ve been awesome.