Open Range


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Open Range
The Masked Reviewer

Freddy Kreuger.  The name inspires fear in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere....

Woops!  Wrong review.  Sorry.

Kevin Costner.  The name inspires fear in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere.  Since his Oscar(tm) winning efforts in Dances with Wolves (eh), Costner has been in such films as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (pick an accent), JFK (okay, he picked an accent, now give it back), The Bodyguard (and IIIIIIIIIII...will al-ways change the channel when that shows on cable), Wyatt Earp (at least Val Kilmer was great...oh wait, that was Tombstone), Waterworld (everybody is allowed one disastrously expensive mega-flop), Tin Cup (oooh...Don Johnson AND Kevin Costner?  In a movie about golf?  Good-bye sleeping pills!), The Postman (okay, everybody is allowed TWO disastrously expensive mega-flops), Message in a Bottle (the message is: see a different movie!), For the Love of the Game (for the love of pete, stop with the baseball movies), Thirteen Days (it only felt like 13 days, the movie was only 9 days long...and stop with the accents already!), and 3000 miles to Graceland (the greatest film to star two actors who both played Wyatt Earp).

Sure, it's easy to not like Kevin Costner.  Just watch his films.  But, lest we forget, he has done some films that weren't awful.  The Untouchables, Silverado, No Way Out: all are fine films.  Some people even liked Bull Durham and Field of Dreams.  So let's keep things in perspective. 

Costner likes to go back to the well where he's had success: baseball movies and Westerns.  He fancies himself to be a Gary Cooper kind of guy.  Okay, sure.  Open Range is a Cooperesque Western. 

It seems like Westerns would be good fodder for fraternity drinking games.  Every time you see a cowboy hat, you drink.  A horse, you drink.  Cattle -- one drink for each set of horns.  A campfire?  Drink.  An Injun, drink (if they're wearing a full headdress, finish the glass).  A pot of coffee?  Drink.  A showdown?  Drink.  A dusty town?  One drink for the saloon, one for the general store, one for the livery, one for the get the idea.  It's not that the Masked Reviewer endorses drinking, but there are a lot of elements that seem to be necessary for a Western.  The only one that seems to be missing from Open Range is the Injuns.  The Indians were going to be in the movie, but they had their reservations.  Ha!  Get it? We slaughtered them and put the rest on reservations.  That's what you get for bringing corn and squash to Thanksgiving. 

Open Range opens with a long, empty, flat, boring landscape filled with slow-moving animals.  This, one fears, is representative of the rest of the movie.  In fact, much to the Masked Reviewer's surprise, it is not!  At least, not until the very end of the film.

Robert Duvall stars with Costner, as does Annette Bening.  Bening and Duvall either bring out the best in Costner, or just handle all the important talky bits, leaving Costner to be the silent brooding type.  He does that well; in fact, Costner is able to portray a character more convincingly with just a look and his body language than he is when he speaks. 

Costner has a goatee in the film, which seemed a bit odd for a guy living on the open range. 

Basically, this is a straight-up shoot-the-dirty-scoundrels-who-did-the-bad-stuff Western.  It takes a little while before  things get going, but once they do, it's interesting to see what happens.  The way things unfold is unpredictable, which holds the viewer's interest throughout. 

There is a love story in the film that isn't particularly well doesn't add much to the story and it doesn't seem to grow.  Suddenly two characters who have barely had contact with each other decide they're in love.  Boom.  Just like real life.

The weakest part of the film was the ending.  The film ends, and then there's another half hour of unnecessary dragging on that tells us nothing new.  It's clear when the movie ends to everyone except for Costner, who also directed the film. 

Students of the history of candy might find a scene where Costner, in the old west, is offered Jujubees, gumdrops, and jawbreakers -- to be a bit of an anachronism.  Jujubees haven't even been around for 100 years!  But, that may be nitpicking.

There were some weird lines in the film too.  "What they want, what they've done, and what they should've because of it."  Huh?  What does that mean?  But, it's only words.

Essentially, it's an old-school Western.  There's a lot of shooting and male bonding and honor and pride.  The Masked Reviewer couldn't have had lower expectations from this film, so the fact that he sat through it must mean that it's a quantum leap above Costner's recent (post 1987) work.  Costner set the bar so low that he had to dig a trench for it.  But, this film isn't bad.

The acting is fine, the plot moves along (until the end), and the visuals of the old west are stunning, with rolling fields and open sky.  Of course, it was shot in Canada.  But that's a minor point.

Open Range will probably do fairly well, since there aren't a lot of "serious" films in theaters these days.  If you're a fan of westerns like Unforgiven or Stagecoach, you will find this film isn't nearly up to snuff, unless you just like the genre.  In terms of Costner's previous work, this film is much closer to Silverado than it is to Dances with Wolves.  It's better than Sharon Stone's Quick and the Dead, but that doesn't give one much to go on, does it?

Fans of Duvall and Bening won't be disappointed with their performances.  Fans of Costner...that sounds so weird...may view this as his best work since Dances with Wolves.  The rest of us will see this as an average Western.


Expectation from the Title: The latest in the line of G.E. ovens features four burners and a built-in de-greaser. 

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  It could've been much, much worse.

The Pros: Unpredictable and interesting, fine acting by the supporting cast, nice cinematography.

The Cons: Too long (almost 2.5 hours), especially the last 30 minutes of the movie which did nothing to move it along. 

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