Directed by Kevin Costner
Based on the novel The Open Range Men by Lauran Paine
Screenplay by Craig Storper
Starring: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Kim Coates, Michael Gambon, Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi, Michael Jeter
Boss Spearman (Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner) are driving their herd across the country with their hired hands (Luna, Benrubi). When they come across a small ranching town they’re forced to confront a corrupt lawman and Denton Baxter, the cattle baron (Gambon) who controls him. After Baxter comes after their hired hands, Waite and Spearman find themselves seeking out justice. With the help of people like Sue Barlow (Bening) and Percy (Jeter), Waite and Spearman hope they can rid the town of the corrupt people in charge.
This film is based on the novel The Open Range Men by Lauran Paine (The Quiet Gun). Paine is a favorite author of Kevin Costner (Bull Durham) who both starred in and directed this film. The screenplay was written by Craig Storper (The Truth About Alex). The cast includes Robert Duvall (Get Low), Annette Bening (The American President), and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II). The film also stars Kim Coates (Black Hawk Down), Diego Luna (Milk), Abraham Benrubi (U Turn), and Michael Jeter (Miller’s Crossing). This was the last film role for Jeter, who passed away prior to the release of the movie.
The story, as it plays out, is nicely written with a modern twist on classic Western themes. The characters all feel like they’re being presented slowly and deliberately. This slow burn allows the focus of the movie to remain on the action and the drama. As the new information comes to light it only serves to accentuate the bigger picture. The writing does a great job weaving the people into the depth of the story, and it is enjoyable from beginning to end. The story also avoids overuse of dialogue that might have slowed down the pace of the film. The screenplay does a wonderful job creating the world of the story and the people within it. The conflict is honest and brutal throughout the movie. Like most good Westerns in recent memory, this one avoids making anyone all bad or all good. Overall, this is a great story.
The acting in this movie is wonderful. Kevin Costner has always been a favorite of mine, but he also misses the mark with his choices of roles. This was not one of those times. His acting in this movie really avoids being overdone or taking over the emotional current of the film. Instead, Costner shares the screen perfectly with Robert Duvall and Annette Bening. Those two also do great work in their roles in this one. Additionally, Coates, Gambon, Luna, Benrubi, and Jeter all do nice work in this movie. Like many good Westerns, the cast in this one comes together with great chemistry. I think the depth of this cast is one of the strong points of the film in general.
This movie was filmed on location on the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta, Canada. The natural beauty of the landscape is wonderfully captured with great cinematography. The camera work also benefited from nicely designed sets and costuming as well. The film also boasts an excellent score written by Michael Kamen (Brazil).
Overall, the production of this movie is wonderful, but one sequence really set this apart from most Westerns. The shootout in this movie was filmed in real-time, and done in a way that accentuated the split-second nature of violent encounters. The wide shots used in this sequence add to the ability to understand the reality of the moment. This decision was a departure from the technique being used by many filmmakers at the time. By avoiding the stylistic approach of films like The Matrix, this stands out as a great technical work.
If you like great action with a wonderful story, this is one for you. This is also a good film for fans of Costner, Duvall, or any others in the wonderful cast. This is a great movie for Western movie buffs as well. It has something for almost everyone, including drama, romance, and awesome shootouts. Unfortunately, the violence also makes this one that not everyone should see. I give this one 4.7 out of 5 stars.