Saturday, September 13, 2008

Appaloosa at the Boston Film Festival

Under the silly impression that the entire cast of Appaloosa would be at the opening of the Boston Film Festival, a couple of friends an I ventured into East Cambridge last night. While the promises of superstar attendance turned out not to be true, the movie turned out to be a pretty good one. Appaloosa, based on the novel by Robert Parker (a Cambridge native), is a true to the genre no frills western of the best kind. The story goes like this: 

Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) heads west to expand his mind after spending a few years serving in the military during the presidency of Chester Arthur. He meets up with Virgil Cole (Ed Harris), an established peacemaker with a taste for Emerson, somewhere out west. From that point on, Hitch is Cole's right hand man, his back-up with an 8-gauge shotgun constantly poised on his shoulder and a moustache to boot. The two find there way to the sleepy town of Appaloosa somewhere in New Mexico territory. Turns out a rancher by the name of Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) has been terrorizing Appaloosa, most recently by shooting down the sheriff and his two deputies. The town officials hire Cole and Hitch to take care of business, and badassery ensues. From here on, the story isn't too surprising, awesome shots of the New Mexican ladscape punctuated here and there by cool gunfights and a shoddily cast Renee Zellwegar. By the end, we've seen the two gunslingers escort their prisoner across the desert, fend off marauding natives, walk into a gunfight with the odds weighted heavily against them, and drink more than a few shots of whiskey in the middle of the afternoon from dirty shot glasses in an even dirtier saloon. Pretty standard western movie stuff.

I am going to say that I liked the movie. It was an interesting western. Your standard western has a single protagonist (Eastwood, Wayne, etc) who takes it all on. But Appaloosa gave us two, which was interesting. First off, both Harris and Mortensen are true badasses, Mortensen perhaps a bit more. So it was kind of like getting twice the bang for your buck. But, having two protagonists, male protagonists at that, in a western movie added some interesting undertones to what is generally a pretty macho genre. This movie was really about the relationship between two straight men. But this was no Brokeback Mountain. It was more like Lethal Weapon (you know how Riggs and Murtaugh kind f have that more than friends relationship, but it isn't anything sexual?).

I think that the Renee Zellweger character was crap. Basically, she just wasn't a realistic person. This isn't the fault of the director so much as it is the fault of the original author. Or maybe it's both their faults? Regardless, she didn't add much to the movie except that she made you think twice about Ed Harris' character for loving her, which I guess added depth to his character. 

The best part of the whole thing is Viggo's facial hair. Holy shit! Check it out.

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