Riding into the sunset is a good way to end things

Just finished watching Appaloosa, a Western that is written, produced, directed by and starring Ed Harris. Something I didn’t know until I looked it up on IMDb. Serious Ed, I like your work but I haven’t seen that many credits since James and I made The Making of Star Farce for our final film project.

The synopsis offered by Apple Trailers:

Set in the Old West territory of New Mexico, “Appaloosa” revolves around a pair of hired guns (Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris) who come to clean up a dangerous town run by a ruthless, powerful rancher (Jeremy Irons) and his band of outlaws. While boldly bringing new order to the town, the two fearless lawmen meet a provocative outsider (Renee Zellweger) whose unconventional ways threaten to destroy their decade-old bond.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. I like Ed Harris and I’m fond of Viggo Mortensen’s work, such as I noted when writing about The Road. Is this blog turning into a Viggo fanclub?!? Ed and Viggo also starred in A History of Violence, David Cronenberg’s excellent 2005 effort. Warning: Spoilers below.

The dynamic of Harris and Mortensen works pretty well for me. As the elder, Harris plays Virgil Cole, the leader of the outfit. The iron grip Cole possesses on his moral compass allows him to dispatch frontier justice in a lawless land. The wicked are punished but always according to the law and Cole is that law, a rather harsh law.

Mortensen plays Everett Hitch, Cole’s faithful deputy. Hitch is less of the philosopher-king than Cole is. Hitch knows he’s a good in a fight and has steady nerves; he’s a gunman, and being a lawman is just a way of making it legal. It is telling that through the course of the movie we learn Cole has never killed a man outside the law but Hitch has. Revealed in context, it humanizes Hitch in the same way Cole’s claim bolsters his own moral righteousness.

Zellweger does an alright job as Mrs. Allison French, a recent widow who is ready to attach herself to the alpha male of the group — whatever group that happens to be. Mostly that’s City Marshal Cole but not always and it challenges the partnership of Cole and Hitch, though never the utter trust that tie the men together.

Jeremy Irons is solid as Randall Bragg, primary antagonist. Not great but solid, which is nice to see after seeming to descend into a kind of growling, two-dimensional rehash of the same character in a bunch of B movies. I’m looking at you, Dungeons and Dragons and Eragon.

Overall, I have to say it makes a nice addition to the Western section of my movie collection. I still think Seraphim Falls, written and directed by David Von Ancken, is my favourite Western though.

As Apple tells it,

A taut psychological action film, an epic chase and primal battle set in the breathtaking landscape of the West. The civil war has ended but Colonel Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson) is on one final mission: to kill Gideon (Pierce Brosnan) no matter what it takes. Launched by a gunshot and propelled by rage, the relentless pursuit takes them both far from civilization.

Brosnan and Neeson are relentless and unstopping, driven to the ends of the earth by demons and their shared past. If you haven’t seen Seraphim Falls, I highly recommend it. It has the quiet, forlorn dignity that Unforgiven does. That’s another great film, one that I have to add to my collection.

I do have The Man with No Name trilogy by Sergio Leone sitting on my shelf that I need to get to. I’ve seen most of the movies individually, I think, but I’m sure I haven’t seen them all and never in context of each other. Maybe a fun thing to do over the holdiays.

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