September 4, 2003

Open Range

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When was the last time you saw a good Western in the theatres (in color mind you)? Well it seems to have been a while, but finally one’s been made, and it took an actor’s direction to pull it off. In his first decent movie since the 2000 nail biter, Thirteen Days, Kevin Costner stars in yet another action/drama, complete with gun slinging, trash talking, cigar smoking, horse riding, and a good old-fashioned underlying love story, minus the explicit sex. Though it may not seem right to have a cowboy who doesn’t engage in a little hanky-panky, it would be a far greater travesty to have to see Costner or his co-star Robert Duvall engaging in anything heated aside from an argument. Nevertheless, there is indeed the storyline of a sappy romance between Charley (Costner) and Sue Barlow, the blue-eyed damsel played by Annette Bening. The two meet when Charley’s posse of freegrazers, headed up by Boss Spearman (Duvall), seeks medical attention, and they find Sue on the other side of the doctor’s door when they go knocking. The couple is slightly too old to be acting childishly in love, but both their ages combined still wouldn’t make them as old as Robert Duvall. However, the seasoned actor held his own and saddled up well along side Costner, Diego Luna, the up-and-coming young co-star of Y Tu Mama Tambien who plays 16 year-old Button, and the monstrous big-boy of the crew, Mose, played by Abraham Benrubi; you may remember him as Kubiak from the early 90s sitcom Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. Together, the four make an interesting crew of mixed personalities.

Veteran cowpoke, Boss, acts as the fatherly figure, guiding them in their adventures. Charley is the bad boy with the brains, a combination only Costner could whip up for himself. Luna, a star in his native Mexico, attempts to gain more exposure in the U.S. mainstream playing Button — a feisty little vagrant with a will to do it all, but little knowledge or experience, making him an underdog that you just love to pull for. Even still more lovable is the character Mose, whose brawn and size are overshadowed only by his giant heart. Add a sidekick dog, and you’ve got yourself a summer blockbuster wannabe.

Amidst some phenomenal scenery and frequent storms, over the span of what seems to be about two weeks (the timeframe is pretty unclear), the movie tells the story of the posse’s run-in with trouble when they settle down just outside of town. Unfortunate for them, and the locals, the place is run by a hot-headed Irish rancher named Baxter, who has the Sheriff in his pocket. Sure it’s not the most original idea, but at least no one is wearing spurs or whistles for their horse. The set was pretty amazing — a General Store, where the drama kicks off, the Saloon, Jailhouse, Chapel, and a number of other traditional old town spots. Impressively, they managed to create a landslide right through Main Street in the town, appropriately named Harmonville. That created a little comic relief before what would turn into a showdown at the Caf