Open Range

Review Date:
Director: Kevin Costner
Writer: Craig Storper
Producers: Kevin Costner, Jake Eberts, David Valdes
Kevin Costner as Charley, Robert Duvall as Boss, Annette Bening as Sue
Four men crossing a prairie with their herd of cattle are held up when one of their own is ambushed by a few local a-holes. Filled to the brim with honor and all that, the remaining men take it upon themselves to remind the no-gooders that they can’t go through life pushing others around without someone ultimately taking a stand and hitting back. A western starring and directed by Kevin Costner ensues…
A pretty darn solid Western starring Kevin Costner as a hard-nosed cattle-man with a past, Robert Duvall, as his boss and maintainer of all things honorable and Annette Bening as the helpful lady in town who also strikes up a connection with the former. I mention all three actors and characters right off the top because this film is essentially about them. Yes, it’s set in the late 1800s, it’s ultimately a “western” in genre and it moves pretty slowly right from the start, but it’s layered, it’s got depth and it tells a great story about three different people, their choices in life, their present-day questions and dissatisfaction and their strength, vulnerability and sacrifice for the greater hope. I really liked a lot of things about this movie, including the obvious, like the picturesque views from start to finish (also loved the rain!), the score, which took it all to a more epic-ian stature and the directing, which despite Costner’s previously much-aligned effort (THE POSTMAN), moved at an engaging, albeit mannered, pace. But ultimately it was the characters that drew me in, specifically Duvall and Costner’s, both of whom put forth memorable characterizations, strengthened by an authentic chemistry between the two men. By the end of the movie, I knew who these guys were, where they had come from and what they wanted from life…and obviously invested a whole lot more into the final showdown shootout, then were they just a couple of one-dimensional knuckleheads looking to kick ass. The same can be said about the unassuming “romance” which gradually, and realistically, developed between Costner and Bening.

The film’s final half hour, during which much of the gunplay takes place, is definitely its most gripping, if not one of the more memorable sequences from any film this summer. With heightened shooter sounds a la HEAT and stylized shots and kills, the denouement incorporated with it two elements that when melded together successfully, work wonders: visceral excitement and emotional attachment. Major kudos to Costner for skillfully putting together one of the more energetic gunfights that I’ve seen in a long time, and for reminding us why he is one of the more popular actors around. Duvall also provided the film and Costner’s character with a moral compass, a mature mind and wise thoughts, but not to the point of turning in Yoda or boring the shit out of us. In fact, he also listened and adapted-which turned out to be one of the film’s greater attributes as well. It never squeezed any one person into a corner or forced them to revert to one dimension. These people felt real, they had pasts, secrets and truths to be uncovered, and if your experience is anything like mine and you find yourself truly caring and moving alongside these characters as they discover one another, you too will enjoy this movie all the way through. OPEN RANGE is also loaded with a handful of interesting secondary characters including Kim Coates in a small, but pivotal, turn as the bitch of the wild bunch, Diego Luna, the young lad over whom much is fought and Michael Jeter (RIP), who along with a couple of miscellaneous moments nearing the film’s end, provides for a number of well-placed humorous quips. You also get an assortment of memorable scenes including one in which the two men walk into a bar and order drinks the hard way, an ambush in the woods and a bunch of really neat flashes during the final gunfight- marked by the infamous “Are you the one who killed my friend?” shot. Very cool.

So even with a great trailer, a slick marketing campaign (love the posters) and the headstrong manner of Mr. Kevin Costner behind the lens, this movie still managed to rise above my expectations with an absorbing tale, a deliberate, but surprisingly effective, pace, well-established characters with real lines on their faces and lest I forget, one of the more riveting shootouts to top it all off. Here’s hoping that this film becomes one of the sleeper hits of this mostly shitty summer movie season. “Men are going to get killed here today and I’m going to kill them.” You tell ’em, man…you tell ’em.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

Open Range