Actor Ed Harris takes only his second stab at directing, following the Oscar-winning feature POLLOCK (2000) with this spirited western. Harris draws on a strong cast, many of whom have acted with him in previous films, to tell the story of two gunfight......more
Actor Ed Harris takes only his second stab at directing, following the Oscar-winning feature POLLOCK (2000) with this spirited western. Harris draws on a strong cast, many of whom have acted with him in previous films, to tell the story of two gunfighters attempting to bring peace to the small town of Appaloosa in the late 1800s. Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) ride into the windswept New Mexico town and are hired to bring vigilante entrepreneur Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice. Bragg has imposed a reign of terror over Appaloosa, but his murderous actions are tempered when Cole and Hitch take control. Matters get complicated when widower Allison French (Renee Zellweger) flounces into town and variously woos Cole, Hitch, and Bragg, allowing Harris to throw in a few neat twists as his two principal characters attempt to bring the miscreant entrepreneur to justice.
APPALOOSA is a slow-moving and beautifully shot feature that perfectly translates the dusky New Mexico landscape to celluloid. The film stands shoulder to shoulder with 21st-century westerns such as THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD and THE PROPOSITON, and much like those films Harris's feature draws heavily on deeply affecting performances from his leads. Irons is particularly affecting as the baleful Bragg, who brings a real air of menace to the screen any time he appears on camera. The nuanced turns by Harris and Mortensen play like a master class in subtlety, with the two seasoned actors perfectly delivering two stoic characters who are masking a lifetime of pain and suffering. Harris's feature is a welcome addition to the fold of introspective westerns, effortlessly standing alongside similar efforts such as Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN or James Mangold's 3:10 TO YUMA.
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