“ Genre: War & Western - Western / Theatrical Release: 2008 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Ed Harris / Actors: Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Spall, Ed Harris, Lance Henriksen ... / DVD released 2009-02-02 at Entertainment in Video / Features of the DVD: PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
(FILM ONLY REVIEW)
Some films you want to watch because of the story, some because of what you've heard from other people but sometimes the presence of some highly rated actor can be enough. This was the case with 'Appaloosa' (2008) which stars one of my favourite actors Ed Harris backed up by an impressive cast including Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger and (a slightly miscast) Jeremy Irons.
'Appaloosa' is in many ways an old fashioned western, a simple story of good versus evil in a small town setting. Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are two guns for hire. They travel around the mostly lawless frontier country of the old West offering their services for a price to communities in need of help. One such place is the town of Appaloosa dominated by Randall Bragg a rancher who feels he and his men are above the law. The town elders call in Cole and Hitch after the local sheriff has been gunned down by Bragg and his men. Cole and Hitch are named as Marshal and deputy and are asked to confront Bragg and restore the rule of law. To complicate matters a beautiful but penniless widow Mrs French (Renée Zellweger) arrives in town and soon Cole find his mind distracted from the job he has been hired to do. Will the two lawmen succeed outnumbered as they are by the Bragg gang? Will the presence of a woman test their friendship and loyalty to each other?
'Appaloosa' is a good example of how westerns can still be successful in the modern era. It is not as gritty and compelling as some recent classics such as Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' or even '3.10 to Yuma' but it has very good production values and good solid all round performances by the cast. Ed Harris is very good as the ageing gunfighter beginning to question what kind of future is in store for him. Viggo Mortensen once again puts in a very good performance as the younger gunslinger devoted to his older friend but also beginning to question his appetite to carry on in such a violent occupation. The chemistry between the two actors is fascinating and their performances are understated and brooding but still tinged with humour. This is the best element of the film. Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen have worked together before most notably in the brilliant 'A History of Violence' (2005) and we can see that on screen they have an affinity for each other.
Harris not only stars in this film he also directs and co-adapted the story from a novel by Robert Parker, he does a fine job of both. The characterisation is superb and the direction maintains the pace and tension within the story extremely well. Where the film slightly fails to deliver is in the casting of the villain and some of the secondary roles. Jeremy Irons like many other British actors in Hollywood these days is in danger of getting typecast as the pantomime villain, he certainly played 'bad' to great effect as Simon Gruber in the third instalment of the Die Hard trilogy 'Die Hard: With a Vengeance' but in this role I personally couldn't get past his weak American accent which consistently distracted me from any other merits of his acting. Another piece of miscasting was that of the usually brilliant Timothy Spall as the bumbling, comedic town elder. Again his accent failed to convince and the humour meant to be brought in to his part fell flat most of the time. The third questionable aspect of the film is the part played by Renée Zellweger an actress that can be produce the 'marmite' effect with many people, either love her or hate her! I personally don't see the attraction and I find that in most of her films she relies on bizarre facial expression to convey emotions, which can become quickly annoying. In this she is cast as a femme fatale that is meant to capture the feelings of the veteran gunfighter, but again I was not convinced by her.
Unlike many westerns the story is not totally predictable. In many films of this genre the plot is an excuse to fill the time before the final gunfight. Of course there is final gunfight, it wouldn't be a western if there wasn't but there are enough twists along the way to keep it interesting.
Visually the film is good and the action sequences are well set up and realistic without overplaying the special effect and gore. It is not a violent film certainly not on a par with some recent westerns or crime thrillers and I felt the 15UK certificate is quite strict overall.
Despite its failings the film does manage to rise above the average, just about and in the end can be viewed as a solid example of the modern western while consciously respecting its roots in the 'old school' films of the 40's and 50's.
Cast and technical bits
Jeremy Irons ... Randall Bragg
Ed Harris ... Virgil Cole
Viggo Mortensen ... Everett Hitch
Renée Zellweger ... Allison French
Timothy Spall ... Phil Olson
The run time is 111min and at the time of writing this review 'Appaloosa' is available on DVD from Amazon for £4.37 including p&p.
Overall this is a well made film, well acted with a decent story and some above average performance. It does have faults and it is not an outstanding film but still well worth watching.
© Mauri 2010
This film arrived from my lovefilm rental list at the weekend and we duly sat down to watch it. It was a film I had added to the list because it had popped up on one of those recommendation boxes, whereby it tells you that if you liked a particular film (in this case 3:10 To Yuma) then you may well enjoy this one.
Its actually not bad and quite enjoyable, if somewhat predictable and true to 90% of western style films - i.e. bad guys need running out of town and many gun battles are needed before this can be achieved. This film was directed by Ed Harris who also plays one of the lead roles as Virgil Cole.
The film focusses on lawman Virgil Cole (played by Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) who are employed by the town of Appaloosa in 1882 to restore law and order and protect the townsfolk from the lawless and violent rancher Randall Bragg and his gang of men.
The tale of how they acheive the arrest and trial of Bragg for the murder of the previous Marshall is told here whilst we learn something of the background to these two men and how they came to be friends as they successfully worked to restore peace and order in their previous roles across the mid-west. Their reputation precedes them it seems and they are given full control over the law of the town to enable them to instill the order the town seeks.
Alongside the protection of the town there is also a love story of sorts as Allie French, a widow, arrives in town and sparks up a relationship with Virgil, something he has previously refused to engage with. The film follows the two strands of story as they intertwine and ultimately become as one with some tough decisions being made to ensure the future of the main characters.
Viggo Mortensen - Everett Hitch
Ed Harris - Virgil Cole
Renée Zellweger - Allie French
Jeremy Irons - Randall Bragg
Lance Henriksen - Ring Shelton
Adam Nelson - Mackie Shelton
Timothy Spall - Phil Olson
Ariadna Gil - Katie
James Gammon - Earl May
Tom Bower - Abner Raines
Rex Linn - Sheriff Clyde Stringer
I found Mortensen as Everett a very impressive character who exuded charm, loyalty and dignity whilst remaining true to the gritty and hard-edged type of man that his job requires him to be. I cannot think of anyone else who could have played this role so well, he totally owned it in my opinion and I sort of fell a little bit in love with him here (maybe thats because I still see him as the devilishly handsome Aragorn!?).
I quite enjoyed the story as a whole and especially the way it ended which made me think about why certain decisions had been taken and what that meant (dont want to spoil any plots here!). It seemed like quite a well thought out story and the ending was not as simple as it could have been which impressed me.
This film did succeed in feeling like a good old fashioned western should feel, saloons, whores, a piano playing in the background of the bar, plenty of galloping about on horses. It certainly ticks all the boxes if you were looking at a crib sheet for what a good western should contain. I felt that Harris did a very good job of directing as well as starring in this film.
I found Zellweger as Allie French a little on the irritating and wooden side in this film. I think a lot more could have been done with this character but instead she seemed like a sterotyped floozy of a woman with no real idea of what she wants and the morals of a street cat despite her claims to be a proper lady and not a whore. I would have found it much more believable if she had commenced a relationship with Everett rather than Virgil. I know Zellweger can pull of these kind of southern belle roles quite well (Cold Mountain in particular springs to mind) but she does not seem to quite achieve it here which is a shame.
I found it a little odd at times that Virgil and Everett seemed to talk about their feelings and the situation as regards Allie with more openess than I would expect from two burly cowboys. I did wonder if this was perhaps noticable because the film was based on a novel where, perhaps without the visual aids the words would be more important.
In my opinion this is a pretty good western yarn of a film and if you have enjoyed more recent inclusions to this genre such as 3:10 To Yuma you will probably enjoy this one. I do think it comes across a little as the thinking mans western and its less heavy on the violence and more concerned with the reasoning behind it which is refreshing.
A succesful novel adaptation which makes for a very enjoyable film. Not stunning on any level, but well thought out and executed. Viggo Mortensen is also enchanting as Everett.
Run Time: 115 mins
Appaloosa is based on the 2005 novel of the same name by crime writer Robert B. Parker, and was directed and co-written by Ed Harris, as well as starring him alongside Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, and Jeremy Irons.
This is by no means an overly outstanding or instantly gratifying Western, but it certainly has some depth for the patient viewer, as well as some fine performances, and well crafted characters that are smart and realistic, unlike the majority of westerns. This isn't exactly a revisionist western - it's more of a throwback, but it's also got a lot of intellect, and isn't a typical gunslinger film.
The plot revolves around lawman Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two friends who are hired to defend a lawless 1880s town from Randall Bragg, a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons). Their efforts are going well, until the arrival of a woman (Renée Zellweger), who puts both their friendship and their ability to let their egos co-exist, to the test. Unlike most western femmes, Zellweger's character actually plays an active part in the narrative and isn't merely "window dressing" - in fact, she's very reminiscent of the Hawksian woman in Howard Hawks's Red River, in that she comes between the two protagonists, profoundly affecting their friendship. This is a film that doesn't say much through its dialogue, but speaks grand statements through its actions, particularly in the climax. Mortensen's character in particular is extremely well drawn, with his morose demeanour at seeing himself be marginalised fully expressed by his seemingly muted, angerless, more depressed and elegiac action of violence.
This curious Western is beautifully shot and benefits from marked chemistry between leads Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen. What differentiates Appaloosa from most recent Westerns is the nuanced characterisation.
Directed by Ed Harris and released into cinemas in 2008, APPALOOSA tells the story of 2 men who are hired to protect the own of Appaloosa from an evil rancher. The narrative tells of the problems they face, including the pull of a beautiful widow, played by Renee Zellweger.
The lead characters are played by Harris and Viggo Mortensen, who bring a real sense of menace to their protectorate characters. I don't really believe that Zellweger would interest these men as much as the film has us believe, but the shootouts in the film are very good.
Viggo Mortensen is particularly excellent in his role, as the quiet gunman Everett.
The DVD is particularly good with some excellent special features, including deleted scenes and an interesting commentary featuring Harris and his producer Robert Knott. Good-quality featurettes are also including, my favourite being the one that discusses the accuracy of the historial aspects of the film.
If you like modern Westerns then I heartily recommend this DVD.
Casting Renée Zellweger as a seductive, Southern belle was a huge mistake. There is nothing wrong with her acting (she is actually pretty fantastic, given the mis-casting) but the looks and the vibe she carries is all wrong for the role she is given. Ed Harris, (most definitely the most underrated actors of our time) and Viggo Mortensen however have great chemistry with her and also with each other. Because of the fine performances the emotional scenes are handled well with a great sense of passion and confidence. Jeremy Irons also succeeds in taking up an excellent villainous role. Despite the cast's best effort, the two main areas where the film has its weaknesses are the plot and the music. Some odd, off-beat music is used when it does not quite fit the serious, foreboding atmosphere. But at the most crucial moments, (thank god) the proper music does come back to heighten the effectiveness of the dramatic scenes. The plot is way too familiar - it covers the already seen ideas and sub-plots of love, violence, betrayal, dignity and honour. This falls short to the outstanding standards of some of the greatest Westerns. Whilst this probably will not remain as a classic, Ed Harris proves that he can direct just as well as he can act, capturing the most magnificent scenery, as well as compelling performances.
This movie is clearly a bit of a labour of love for the fine actor Ed Harris - he not only stars in it but also takes writing and directing credits, and even sings a track over the closing credits (a slightly wannabe Johnny Cash effort)!
And maybe this is a case of too much involvement as the film doesn't quite live up to its promise. I'm a big western fan, and there's a cast to die for - Harris is joined by Viggo Mortensen to play lawmen partners Cole & Hitch; Jeremy Irons enjoys himself as bully-boy rancher Randall Bragg; Renee Zellweger is very good as no-better-than-she-should-be Mrs French; and even Tim Spall makes an appearance.
Yet the story lets the film down somewhat. The eponymous Appaloosa is a small town terrorised by Bragg, so the locals bring in Cole & Hitch to straighten things out. Meanwhile, the alluring Mrs French steps off the train and causes havoc as she quickly steals Ed Harris's heart while playing fast and loose round all the key players. While it's pretty well-paced, the central plot is hardly original. The orbit around Mrs French is the interesting thing here, and while it's given plenty of time, I would have liked to have seen it developed even further.
The acting is all excellent, as you'd expect from such big hitters. Though Harris (distracted by his multi-tasking perhaps?) is far less engaging than Mortensen for me. Zellweger, never my favourite actress, does well as the complicated Mrs French.
So all in all, a good film but not a great one, and the sort of movie that you wish could have fulfilled its promise more fully.
Hubby loves the old western movies so when he saw the release of Appaloosa he could not wait to see if the modern western could compete, hubby loved it and I have to say I quite enjoyed it myself although I had not really expected to.
Appaloosa tells the story of two lawmen (Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch) who find their way to Appaloosa to be given the task of bringing law back to the town after Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) has been running the town his way and doing what he likes including killing the last Sheriff and his deputy.
Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) is a bit of a law unto himself and he needs to be kept in tow by his long time sidekick and much more controlled Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) and when a new and very pretty lady comes to town in the form of Alison French ( Renée Zellweger) they both fall for her, Virgil gets the lady but she is trouble with a capital T.
The story is a fast paced one with plenty happening throughout and it tells a tale of two friends as well as two lawmen, it has gripping moments, happy moments and sad moments and is a very enjoyable movie.
The acting throughout is of high standard and I would recommend this movie to anyone although those who like westerns will probably either love it or hate it.
It has a runtime of 111 minutes and a certificate 15 (for bad language)!
Appaloosa is based on a 2005 novel of the same name, by Robert B. Parker. It's written, produced and directed by Ed Harris and co-written by Robert Knott. It stars Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.
Expert gunmen Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are hired to bring law and order to outpost town Appaloosa which is suffering under the brutal rule of rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). The film opens with Bragg's cold-blooded murder of the previous Marshall and his deputy, so we are left in do doubt as to why the townspeople are so terrified of him.
Things are complicated by the arrival of flirtatious widow Allie French (Renee Zellweger). Cole and Hitch both find themselves attracted to her, but which one will she choose? It's a typical Western scenario, but things don't play out in the traditional format you might expect of Westerns.
This is a cowboy film with a slow build up, giving plenty of time for character development. I enjoyed this, but it's not what everyone wants from a cowboy film. However, the whole crux of this film is about the trio formed by Allie, Cole and Hitch and the complex relationship they develop. Cole and Hitch, we soon begin to see, have a deeply trusting relationship.
Cole is the expert gunman who has trouble with words of more than two syllable but always knows how to react in a dangerous situation. Hitch is the brains of the pair, who, strangely isn't the decision maker but instead always has Cole's back. The dialogue between them is slow, laid-back, but highly amusing and sometimes touching at the same time (but not in a Brokeback Mountain kind of way!). Cole often struggles to find the right word, and often asks Hitch "What word am I looking for?" And Hitch always supplies it. The question is, what will happen to this bond when they let the flirtatious and needy Allie into their lives?
The interplay between Mortensen and Harris is excellent. Mortensen plays his part with the restrained intensity he brings to all his roles. Harris's style is more relaxed but equally restrained. Renee Zellweger brings a sense of vulnerability to the character of Allie, a woman surviving on her wits in a harsh society. She seems much more at home playing an American character than the British character she played in Bridget Jones (strange casting there). On the other hand, the British Jeremy Irons slips into his role as charming but brutal rancher Bragg with surprising ease.
In case all this sounds boring and lacking in action, it isn't, but it does develop slowly. This isn't a cowboy drama with improbable prolonged shootouts where the bad guys always miss and the good guys are always the fastest shot. The action is there, often in short, shocking bursts. There is a brutal realism to it that is actually more effective.
If you liked films such as Open Range and the 2007 remake of 3.10 to Yuma, you'll probably enjoy this. I went to see this at the cinema because I like Viggo Mortensen in everything he's played in recent years, such as Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo, and Eastern Promise. He doesn't seem to make a bad film.
Runtime 111 minutes