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Open Range
DVD disk
Oct 7, 2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
Open Range order
Director:
Kevin Costner

Actors:
Kevin Costner
Robert Duvall
Annette Bening

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A small band of free grazers' quarrel with a local rancher and his bought-out lawmen, and send a small town erupting into violence when one of them is brutally attacked and their herds run off. Boss (Duvall) and Charley (Costner), two men with pasts they'd like to forget, have to take out their rusty guns in order to defend their honor, their freedom and their lives.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
As far as DVDs go, 2004's gonna have a real hard time sending out something to beat this one and since we're not even done with January, that's saying a lot about Kevin Costner's latest. OPEN RANGE is the epitome of what the large scale, panorama-filled western should be: grandiose in its landscapes, gritty in its characters, straightforward in its story and wonderful in its performances. Much like he did in DANCES WITH WOLVES, Costner manages to contrast the toughness of life on the range with its natural beauty and let me tell you: it works. It works especially well when you have a great group of actors bringing everything together. Led by the venerable Robert Duvall, Costner and co-stars Annette Bening, Michael Jeter, Diego Luna, Abe Benrubi and Michael Gambon, along with a very good supporting cast, the prime players put up some fantastic numbers as the main antagonists in this brutally violent story about pioneers of the American West.

Love him or hate him, Costner's had to put up with a lot of unfair criticism for the past decade or so. His box office numbers have plummeted and his movies have been panned, sometimes before having even been seen. Nevertheless, he deserves credit for having stayed his own course and made some great films that many have denied themselves the pleasure of seeing, simply for the nasty thrill of taking a potshot at the man. There's no other sensible explanation for this film's mediocre reign in theatres. Well received by critics, it perhaps shows how the values portrayed in the western genre have become unfamiliar with the values of today's world. This film is in the mold of what life must have been back then: nothing is hurried, things take their time to progress and ideals such as duty and honor prevailed. Contrasting that with today's microwaving, cell-phone toting, on-the-run life is hard and may be why people complain about them moving too slowly. Maybe it is more of a fast-paced experience to see the twelfth sequel of a movie featuring some teenagers being chased by a monster, but it sure as hell will never compensate for a film that makes you squint as if you were staring at the sun yourself or long for simpler days that we've never been fortunate enough to know and that are slipping further and further away from us every day.

Overall, this film conveys the true beauty of the open range and makes it the backdrop of a tense and violent story which is played to perfection by all involved. The pace is what you would expect from such a movie, which is to say that it moves at the speed of a horse-drawn wagon: slow, steady and reliable. That pace hinders it in absolutely no way and instead makes you appreciate the scenery and the quicker sequences that much more. You also get some great music by Michael Kamen and some beautiful photography to boot. Great movie!
THE EXTRAS
Full length audio commentary featuring director/star Kevin Costner: Say what you will about Kevin Costner, he may not be the most humble man in the world, but he always manages to come off as an extremely intelligent and articulate one. It's obvious that the man is relentless in his pursuit of showing the public movies about topics he cares for and feels strongly about and you can usually see that in his films. This commentary track covers pretty much the whole process of making this film and Costner doesn't leave too many blank spots in his analysis. Yeah, he only has one tone of voice, but at least he has some interesting things to say. Definitely worth a listen.

Beyond Open Range (1 hr.): Easily one of the most complete 'making of' documentaries I've seen of late. It opens with Costner lambasting a potential financier who's on the verge of bailing and proceeds to accompany the director through the earliest stages of the film through to its wrap. Costner and the producers put up more than half of the film's $26M budget out of their own pockets and you can tag along and hear out his thoughts on the entire thing as it happens. The entire feature is narrated by Costner and features all the cast members and many crew members hard at work. It's by no means a studio feature, but a true documentary.

American Open Range (13 mins.): Narrated by Costner as well, this interesting historical explanation of life on the uncharted territories was like during the 19th century: hard, exhausting and often times, very short. If you've ever had an interest in the old west, this is a nice complement to things you may have already known or it may offer up some things you'll be glad to know but didn't.

Deleted Scenes (30 mins.): Twelve deleted scenes appear with optional on-screen intros by Kevin Costner, who explains both the scenes themselves and the reasons they were left out. This is not a collection of useless edits and extended scenes, but rather some good pieces of a great film. Lasting anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes, they do offer some insight into the film and at times, even made me wonder why on earth they were left out of the final cut.

Storyboarding Open Range (6 mins.): David J. Negron Jr., the film's storyboard artist walks us through the process of working with Costner and putting the latter's vision onto paper for filming. Costner is notorious for being extremely picky about his shots and for having very strong ideas about what he wants his films to look like, so it's actually pretty interesting to see how someone else interprets his vision (I guess Costner, for all his talents, can't draw).

Music Video Montage (4 mins.): This is a quick montage of shots from the film and set with some music in the background. Not really my cup of tea, but then again, what do I know...
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
I don't want to say this is a great western, because it's a great film...period. Costner sticks to his guns and comes up with yet another memorable effort that falls into the elusive "must see" category. "Must see", why? Because of its sheer beauty, its wonderful acting and its gripping story. Do yourself a favor and mosey on down to the nearest general store to pick yourself up a copy. I reckon you'll be glad you did.
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