PLOT: It is 1882 and the small town of Appaloosa has a few bad elements to contend with. When their city marshal is shot in cold blood, a man by the name of Virgil Cole comes looking for justice. Once he arrives, alongside his partner, he begins to make life better for the townsfolk. That is until trouble comes callin. A young lady shows up with only a dollar to her name, but she seems to spark a fire in Cole. Guns are a blazin and hearts are broken as the wild west kinda sorta lives up to its name.
One genre I am really happy to see coming back is the western. Recent films such as 3:10 TO YUMA and THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD began to restore my faith in the good ole wild west returning. So with this, I became very excited about the Ed Harris directed feature APPALOOSA (which he also co-wrote with Robert Knott). How can you go wrong with Mr. Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons? Well for the most part you cant. In fact, the struggle between these three rich and fascinating characters is what great westerns are all about. But then, SHE shows up. Now dont get me wrong, I dont dislike Renee Zellweger, shes given some fine performances, including her Oscar winning work in COLD MOUNTAIN. But when this prim and proper lady shows up, this western melodrama almost screeches to a halt. And sadly, every time it returned to her and her relationship with the men, the train slowed down again.
My rating 5.5/10 -- JimmyO
Now Im not sure if it is her performance or just the fact that the character itself seems to be merely a plot point a way to get from A to B. So I question whether the role would have worked with another actress, maybe someone like Kate Winslet or something. When she comes to town and the city marshal finds himself smitten with her, it feels manufactured and fake. While the chemistry between Mortensen and Harris is natural. Even when Jeremy Irons shows up to cause trouble, he seems right at home with his smooth talking bad guy. But Zellweger pouts and primps along leaving me wondering why anybody would stick with her throughout the film. Her Allison French is not exciting and unconventional as the press release claims, she is just annoying and dull.
It all begins when Virgil Cole (Harris) and his deputy and partner, Everett Hitch (Mortensen) find themselves seeking justice in the small town of Appaloosa. When they hear word that the former city marshal, and friend, is killed in cold blood, they seek to bring the guilty to justice. Its easy enough when they arrive because the townsfolk are tired of Randall Bragg (Irons) allowing his band of thugs to eat, drink and be merry without paying. So Virgil offers his help, as long as he can make up any laws he requires. And when Cole and Hitch find some of Braggs men literally pissing on the floor at the local saloon, he makes sure they know hes deadly serious about his position. While this is a fairly clichéd story found in many a western, it is impeccably acted and directed well enough to make for a good time. And then she shows up
The love story just didnt work for me. Yet I did find beauty throughout the film, it's a visual treat if youre hankerin for a good western. Harris paints his town of Appaloosa with care and authenticity, even if the script sort of felt like a TNT Original Motion Picture. And one of my biggest pet peeves (aside from Allison French), there are a few too many times where these fine folk sit around talking about what might happen or what has happened. It becomes a bit repetitive. I also question why in the world would you make background noise from the saloon as loud as it is while the main characters are having a conversation. When it first happened, I thought it was someone yapping in the theatre. It was terribly distracting and just felt as though someone wasnt on the ball in the sound department. Still, I do think there is good here and I am happy to see another western on the big screen. APPALOOSA has its faults, but I hope it does well enough that Hollywood continues to let cowboys and the way of the west find a home on the silver screen.
My rating 5.5/10 -- JimmyO
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