Saturday, March 14, 2009

Shotgun Critic #4: Appaloosa

Building them up or tearing them down in 5 minutes...ish

I actually got a chance to watch Appaloosa after all and while I don't have time to write a full review I thought I should resurrect the Shotgun Critic for this film. Ed Harris has directed a film that is better placed in the 1950s canon of Westerns as we find it inspired mostly Rio Bravo and Shane in it's romantic, moral notions. But in cinema today it feels like a film with no edge.

Appaloosa takes an odd comic tone throughout from its bizarre choices in music, farcical love entanglements (with Renee Zellweger of all people), and its mocking characterisation of Harris' otherwise steely sheriff Virgil Cole. There is definitely some hint of post-Brokeback homoerotic curiousity in Cole's relationship with his partner in law-keeping Everett Hitch played by Viggo Mortensen. In fact Mortensen once again is standout in this film as the professional gunslinger who chooses to be a lawman and is happy to take the take backseat to partner Cole despite being smarter and possibly quicker. No real climatic gunfight to speak of though it certainly ends with a smoking gun.

No much for anyone other than a Western aficionado and even then it's a stretch. The film mostly lands pretty flat beyond the cool of Virgil Cole's posturing in the face of many guns possessed by men who aren't really prepared to die. I did however love a moment after the film's one good showdown when Everett Hitch notes that it was over faster than normal to which Cole replies" "That's cos everyone knew how to shoot." Great Western observation in an otherwise bland movie.


Unknown said...

I've been really disappointed to hear all the lackluster reviews of Appaloosa. Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen & Jeremy Irons are three actors I'd watch reciting the alphabet (or happily marry, if they'd have me!), so I expected good things from this film. The Western genre seemed a perfect fit for all of them, but maybe they should have tempted Clint Eastwood behind the camera.