Director : Ed Harris

Writers : Robert Knott, Ed Harris.

Starring : Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Timothy Spall and Jeremy Irons.

Hollywood heavyweight Ed Harris takes his place behind the camera for the second time after he directed Marcia Gay Harden to Oscar winning success in Pollock (2000).

Working in front of the camera under the guidance from masters such as James Cameron, Clint Eastwood and Ron Howard has clearly had an effect on the popular actor’s directorial skills. He implements a no frills, ‘nuts and bolts’ method to present a western in the classical sense – deliberately paced, quiet but fearsome characters, whiskey shot drinking, sandstorms, native Americans and of course the ‘stand offs’.

New Mexico 1882. Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Mortensen) are hired as marshal and deputy in the town of Appaloosa to enforce the law after a ruthless rancher Randall Bragg (Irons) murders with no remorse the previous marshal and his two deputies in a gun blazing, blood spilling opening scene. The two new lawmen devote their time, trying to bring Bragg to justice but their law abiding methods and morals of loyalty are put to the test when a widow named Allison French (Zellweger) arrives in town.

This film starts strongly and the opening few scenes show great promise and most movie goers would jump at the chance to watch Jeremy Irons as a gun toting villain. However on 15 minutes enter Renee Zellweger. The story – along with Zellweger’s acting – takes the film, not only on a downward spiral but has you feeling frustrated and irritated. A few scenes after this are well shot and undoubtedly are compelling to watch, but by the end you may be wishing Ed Harris made a ‘Reservoir Dogs Western’ – something with balls and no women in the cast.

If you love the western genre or find the assembled cast too mouth watering to resist – which also includes Lance Henriksen as a villain – then it comes recommended. However if you rate Ed Harris and you want better value for money and have not yet seen Gone Baby Gone (2007) in which he gives an explosive performance as crooked cop Remy Bressant, then get down to your video store, hire it and you will only be spending a third of the price and ultimately watching a film of greater quality.

SUPERIOR SCENE : The third scene into the film has Cole and Hitch give their stamp of authority on the town of Appaloosa, by killing three of Bragg’s gang members. This not only emphasises they are now the law but are unquestionably quicker at drawing their weapons than most outlaws. Harris excels here with some great dialogue.

QUALITY QUOTE : “Of course he’s willing to die. You think we do this kind of work because we’re scared to die ?” Virgil Cole (Ed Harris)

RATING : 3 / 5 stars.

On a personal note, back in 2005 I met Vince Vaughn in a bar called Velvet Margarita in Hollywood L.A.. Having a quick drink with him and not wanting to bombard the movie star with questions, I told him I admired his work, especially in The Prime Gig (2000) and said I only wanted to ask one thing in relation to the industry – “What was it like to work shoulder to shoulder with Ed Harris ?” To which this towering frame of a person replied whilst drawing on a cigarette – “A fine man. A true gentleman and more so than most in Hollywood.”

© BRWC 2010.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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