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"Appaloosa"

Directed by Ed Harris.
Written by Ed Harris and Robert Knott.  Based on the novel by Robert Parker.
Starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renée Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  10/7/08

Folks--

I was very, very excited to see "Appaloosa" as I am a big Ed Harris fan, although thinking about that statement, I almost can't believe that there are those out there who are NOT big Ed Harris fans.

As a nightcap for our fantastic voyage to New Mexico this week, Meg and I snuck in a late show of this western, and both of us were disappointed with the result.  Harris co-wrote and directed "Appaloosa", and the film follows two hired guns named Cole (Harris) and Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) as they arrive in New Mexico in 1882 to help a small town called Appaloosa dig out from the oppression of a vigilante named Bragg (Jeremy Irons, channeling a somewhat, sorta, kinda evil).  Soon after establishing marshall law in the town, in comes a widowed woman named Ally French (Renée Zellweger), who quickly takes a liking to Cole, which summarily ends the "western" portion of the film.

The handling of the relationship between Cole and French is occasionally interesting, but overall, it kills the film's early momentum and makes the initial hunt of Bragg by Cole & Hitch a bit of a sideshow...even later, once we get back on the trail of the movie's main plot, I think Meg and I both lost interest quickly.  And, I'll admit--I like my westerns to have a couple of big-budget shootouts, and we don't get that here.  That's a testament to the new-school direction of Harris, who doesn't get caught up in too many Old West clichés (no shots of horses galloping into the sunset, or saloon doors swinging open, or shots of whiskey being flung down a wet bar top to a guy named Cookie) but leaves out the ones that I always loved...and why "Appaloosa" will sit safely behind films like "Tombstone" or "The Wild Bunch" because I like watching men spit tobacco while spurs clang in the background as dirty bad guys saunter down deserted streets.

The other big problem I had with "Appaloosa"?  All of the performances are so incredibly bland!  Mortensen?  Bland.  (You'll try to forget that just last year at this time, Mortensen was so brilliant as the understated driver from "Eastern Promises.")  Harris?  Bland.  Irons?  Bland.  Meg even thought this movie was rated PG-13, since the minimal violence here is so un-bloody.  The soundtrack is below spec as well, although you should stick around through the end credits to hear Harris himself sing a song about whoring.  No, I'm not kidding!!!

Eh.  That's the one thing I kept saying on the way out the door after our showing; "Appaloosa" is okay, but far below my expectations given my man Harris.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09