Comments on watching and making films.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Ed Harris has only directed two films in his life time, but when those two are Pollock and Appaloosa, you really can't complain about much, except that his out put is so small. Like Clint Eastwood, Harris is an actor who has made the transition back and forth between being an actor and a director, and showing a mastery of both.

Appaloosa is the story of two men - Virgil Cole (played by Harris), and Everett Hitch (Vigo Mortensen), who are hired by the town of Appaloosa, after their Sheriff and his deputies are murdered in cold blood by Randall Bragg, a local rancher and outlaw. They come to the little western town to restore order, and do so by running the town with an iron fist. In fact, Cole forces the city leaders to sign over all law making ability to him, in effect giving him the sole right to say what is legal and illegal, and how to punish those who break the law. A cat and mouse game with Bragg pushes Cole and Hitch to the limit of their capabilities, as they try to put down the outlaw and his gang.

Appaloosa is one of those "old master" kind of films. It almost feels like Eastwood himself directed it, or maybe John Ford. Harris and Mortensen don't miss a beat as the quiet and incredibly skillful gunfighter, nor does Jeremy Irons as Randall Bragg. The only thing I didn't like about this film was Renee Zellweger. I've never cared for her acting, and her face always has this weird bloated look, which makes it difficult to buy her as the romantic lead.

Harris sprinkles some humor into the script in certain places, which certainly lightens up the mood, though it doesn't always need it. These guys, in effect, kill for a living, and sometimes its just interesting to see them wait for the right moment to do so. Hitch, especially, as you assume his temper is probably pretty thin most of the time, as he always seems to have his double barreled shot gun loaded and ready to go.  These guys are so good at what they do, they're almost like machines, and its an experience to just see them do their job. If you like westerns, I think that Appaloosa is absolutely a must see.

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