Running Time: 139 minutes
Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Diego Luna, James Russo, Abraham Benrubi, Dean McDermott
Directed By: Kevin Costner
Rating: 7 out of 10
A couple of free graze cattle ranchers must leave the area or take on the local sheriff to protect their livelihood.
One of my buddies who has also been blessed with the awesome name of Tyler moved to Boston recently. He may be the world’s biggest Kevin Costner fan so in his honor I thought I would do review on a Costner movie. To be honest I was also in the mood for a western so it was an easy choice. Open Range is the story of Boss Spearman and his partner Charley Waite. They are free graze cattle ranchers who are forced to take up arms against a corrupt local law man.
With wide sweeping shots of the beautiful country side and scenes of torrential rain Open Range sets up the viewer for 2 hours of a slow building rise. The film introduces us to Boss Spearman, Charley Waite, and their two cattle hands. The four of them travel the country side raising cattle for sale. Their quiet life consists of hard work and a little fun (like playing poker.) After one of the cattle hands gets in a scuffle in a nearby town, Boss and Charley are forced to ride in to find out what is happening. What transpires next is not to their liking. The local sheriff along with a rich businessman have joined forces to rid the area of all free grazers. Boss and Charlie have a dilemma on their hands. They can either tuck tail and run or stay and fight. This wouldn’t be much of a movie if they ran away like brave brave Sir Robin from the Holy Grail. The film may not be for everyone as admittedly it is very slow moving. I really enjoyed the dialogue between the characters though so I found I was always interested and never noticed the lulls. I liked the camaraderie between the 4 free grazers and the long unedited shots really impressed me also. There is something about underdog western stories that reaches out to me. Boss and Charley are horribly outnumbered and yet when it comes to their livelihood, they rather go down shooting then lose all that they know.
In westerns it usually comes down to the characters and the actors to determine if I like it or not. You can have a great story but without strong leads it doesn’t work. Boss is played by Robert Duvall and Charley by Kevin Costner. The two of them have been free graze cattle ranchers and partners for years and it shows. The easy banter, the tell it like it is comments, and the mutual trust is so apparent it is hard to believe these guys are not best friends off screen. Duvall plays the lead character to a tee. He has a noble charm about him and deals with things as an honorable man would. Costner plays his partner and leaves you questioning what is in his past that makes him so menacing. He seems ruff around the edges and his comments make you think he is a criminal running from the law. He has less then noble intentions as he wants to deal with things by shoot first and ask questions later. The constant struggle of how to do things between Boss and Charley leads to some great scenes. You believe in their friendship so much that you want them to succeed. Annette Bening plays a nurse in the town and adds a little romantic context to a film that is all about Alpha males doing Alpha male things. She is great in an understated role and provides breaks from the tension filled encounters. Michael Gambon plays the corrupt business man Denton Baxter. I felt he was underutilized and you really don’t hate him as much as you should. If not for Boss and Charley being so awesome this could have been a glaring issue.
So as the film progresses you know it is going to culminate into something huge. Boss and Charley walk around this small town as if they don't have a care in the world. They threaten people at the saloon and they threaten them in the street. They are not going to be pushed out of their livelihood by some local thugs. There are many conversations of barely contained gunfights between them and the local law. Trust me, there is something so awesome about two friends walking around a place like they own it when they are horribly outnumbered. I liked this movie for the characters, I liked it for the easy friendship between Boss and Charley, and I liked it for the scenery and the old town, but most of all I liked it for some of the best gunplay I have seen in a while. Truly the film hits all the spots it needed to and even the love story seemed genuine.
Director Kevin Costner rarely steps behind the scenes to shoot a movie but he did with this. Directing and starring cannot be easy but clearly he is a fan of the western genre. He takes this script (Paine, Storper) and delivers a solid film. He lets the characters make the movie with strong personalities and believable friendships. He let them act instead of chopping this movie to pieces with over editing. He just gets what a western is supposed to be about. It has a revenge style theme and the casting was spot on so you will always be interested. If you don’t like westerns it will still be worth it just for the gunfights. I am just going to say it so you can judge me...I wished Costner directed more and yes I realize he directed the Postman.
I give this movie a big recommendation and good luck to Tyler and Laura in Boston! I hope your time there is better than Roy McAvoy's approach shot on the 18th hole at the U.S. Open. I hate you just a little for making me reference Tin Cup.
T Factor + If you like westerns then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you like faster paced films then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Appaloosa, Unforgiven.