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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
Directed by Ed Harris
Starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons and Renée Zellweger
Review by Eli Manning
Two friends hired to police a small town that is suffering under the rule of a rancher find their job complicated by the arrival of a young widow.
There have been many male buddy movies made in my lifetime and a bunch of them made in 2008; but I can't remember a better film about male friendship ever made until Appaloosa fell on my reviewing lap.
Yes, this is your typical Western where the good guys with an edge become the law to protect the ones who can't do it as well as they can. And there is your typical antagonist/bad guy who fights against the law and wins for a bit until, well...you know!
Mixed in all of these Western movie cliches is a great film. Director and Star Ed Harris uses this story structure to present us a movie that's really about the three F's of the world: Fear, Feelings and that other dirty word.
At the midpoint of Appaloosa, Marshall Virgil Cole (Ed Harris), utters the line "Feelings will get you killed". He goes on saying that he's good with the gun because he doesn't let his feelings get in the way. And what makes this film to complex is that you don't know if he's proud or ashamed of that.
Cole's deputy, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), has feelings, but knows what to do with them. Cole treats feelings like they are the enemy as he fears them much more than if someone pulls a gun to his head. In that situation he's comfortable, but talking about what he thinks is something he just doesn't do. Hitch understands that feelings are what he has whether he like them or not. So he might as well face them head on.
Appaloosa takes us into a world many of us are very interested in (the remaking of Western's kind of tells me this). But this film takes things to another level of who these gunslingers are and what makes them tick. Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven' presents to us where these gunslingers end up after it's over and if they survive. As Harris' Appaloosa presents us the parts that have been skipped in Western films of the past in between the gunfights and macho bar scenes.
This is Viggo Mortensen's film all the way. No actor in the world has mastered the art of playing the very intelligent, but also very tough character. The type of person you don't want to get into a fight with and also not want to play a game of Trivial Pursuit with either. He's all man and a very good role model. In Appaloosa his great strength out of everything is also his great weakness: his loyalty to those he loves.
When Mrs. Allison French (Renée Zellweger) enters the town of Appaloosa things begin to change, but not in that soap opera kind of way. For those interested in seeing a Western triangle romance, will be disappointed. No, this is a much smarter film than that.
Cole is a man who's brilliant at his job because he's made his job his life. Because of that he has no idea what the opposite sex is. In many ways he's a middle aged virgin. It made me think back to all of the John Wayne Westerns and realizing that every character he played was probably also a virgin too. Remember 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance'? He kills the man but doesn't get the girl he's been longing for for years. Back to the lonely house he goes to play with this guns!
Hitch is aware of Cole's strengths and weaknesses. There is an ongoing joke throughout the film where Cole, always a man trying to expand his intellect, always tries to use big words in the English vocabulary in conversation. He can do that because he knows Hitch is there to back him as he always knows the right words. This sums of the film because Hitch is always there to back him up. All in all, I really don't want to give anything away because Appaloosa is a film that just sneaks up on you. More films like this need to be made where we forget the plot and don't care to what will happen next because we're so taken into what's happening now.
Brilliantly shot by veteran Cinematography Dean Semler and another great directing effort from Ed Harris. Perhaps he could be the next Clint Eastwood. After all he's taken the Western mythology to another level.
3 1/2 stars out of 4!