Monday, October 13, 2008


I just caught the afternoon matinee of Appaloosa, the new western from Ed Harris and the author of the novel, Robert Parker.

I'd give the movie an "A-". Ed Harris did a creditable job with his character, itinerant lawman named Virgil Cole, who (to borrow a phrase from Bill Bryson) uses words as if he believes he will someday be billed for them. His partner in crime-fighting is Everett Hitch, played with a certain taciturn, rough-sawn poetry by Viggo Mortensen.

Anyone looking for John Ford-style western panoramas will be disappointed; there is some beautiful scenery (the film was shot on location near Santa Fe, New Mexico) but it rightly serves merely as backdrop for the really interesting subject of the movie; the hearts and minds of two men who kill in the name of the law for a living.

Jeremy Irons plays the heavy, a local rancher named Randall Bragg, who is powerful enough to live above the law - at least until the lesser powers-that-be in the town have had enough, and hire Cole and Hitch to put an end to Bragg's reign of lawlessness.

Renée Zellweger plays Allie French, a widowed woman who comes to town with a single dollar, and enough guile to make Virgil Cole fall hard for her in spite of his stoicism, to the quiet consternation of his partner Hitch.

There are showdowns, ultimatums, betrayal and gun play galore (it's a western, after all...) but there is a soul to this movie that lingers in your mind long after the lights go up. Virgil and Hitch are two men you are sorry to leave the company of, and you will leave the theater with regret that your time with them was so short.

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