Yep a new feature, as Phil and I are embarking on trips down our memory lanes and incorporating Westerns Wot We liked into our movie watching. Won’t be every Wednesday, but now and again one will pop up here.
Our first offering is from Phil, who bought this as a DVD a good few moons ago, 2nd hand on a market stall somewhere, thought he’d seen it and then when watching it decided he’d never seen it 🙄.
Open Range (2003) was produced and directed by Kevin Costner, and he starred in it with the inimitable Robert Duvall as the main anchor of the film.
SPOILERS as it’s old.
Duvall plays “Boss” Spearman, an open range cattleman. He has three hired hands, Charlie (Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (a young Diego Luna). They are driving a cattle herd across country and stop to make camp. Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville to get some supplies but doesn’t return. Boss and Charlie go looking for him and discover he’s been thrown in jail for being in a saloon fight and injuring some men. Turns out the men work for Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) an Irish immigrant land baron, who does not like Range men having access to the grazing pastures around the town. Mose is badly beaten up and has been put in the jail by the nasty marshall Poole, ( a smirky, sneery James Russo who does a good job of making you want to punch his nose).
Boss and Charlie get Mose out of jail, but he is really badly hurt so they take him to the Doctor’s house, where Doc Barlow (Dean McDermott) and his sister Sue, (Annette Bening) patch Mose up. Charlie is attracted to Sue but thinks she is Doc’s missis so schtumms up.
When they get back to their camp, Button tells them that horsemen have been scouting it so Charlie and Boss head out to see them off, but whilst they do well at sneaking up on their camp and disarming them, some more of Baxter’s men have gone to Boss’s camp, resulting in Mose’s death and serious injury to Button. Charlie and Boss decide enough is enough and revenge must be taken, but forst they take Button to the Doc’s place. He is away at Baxters, treating the injuries of the men Charlie and Boss disarmed, so it’s left to Sue to patch up Button. Charlie by now knows Sue isn’t the Doc’s wife, so declares his feelinigs for her and she gives him a lucky locket.
Boss and Charlie go up against Baxter and his men, High noon style, and Boss shoots Butler, the chap who killed Mose and hurt Button and then a big gun battle goes off. Although they’re outnumbered, the towns people do not like Baxter, and come out to help them. It’s an amazing set piece, worth rewinding a couple of times!
All Baxters men end up dead, with BAxter wounded and holed up in the jail, where Marshall Poole has previously been chloroformed and locked in a celll with his deputy. Boss shoots open the jail door and mortally wounds Baxter.
A happy ending for Charlie and Sue, who decide toget married and Boss decides to settle down in Harmonville and take over the running the saloon.
This was such a thoughtful piece of work by Costner. He gave his characters back stories, and obviously knew the history of open range cattlemen and what that was all about. In his younger years he’d been a fan of western novels, particularly those of Lauran Paine, and the movie is based on Paine’s 1990 novel The Open Range Men. He’s always envisaged Duvall for t he role and said he probably wouldn’t have made the movie if he’s turned it down.
We really enjoyed it, yes the final gun battle was amazing, but it was the quiet moments, of which there are far more, and the interactions between the characters that were compelling. Robert Duvall, what can I say, just a delight to watch. Costner gives his character a back story of being a soldier in a ‘special squad’ during the civil war, quietly tormented by guilt over his past killings of enemy soldiers as well as civilians. He is hard, and ruthless, b ut his humanity and caring for the men he works with and his developing crush on Sue rounds him out. Anette Benning combines a steel backbone with a caring heart perfectly. The rest of the cast are equal to these A listers.
Critics liked it :- Robert Egbert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it “an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western”. (not sure what was imperfect, maybe not enough shootemups?)
Rotten Tomatoes “Greatly benefiting from the tremendous chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Open Range is a sturdy modern Western with classic roots.“