Paired as rivals in A History of Violence, Ed Harris (who also directs, produces and co-scripts) and Viggo Mortensen stand together as friends and for-hire peacekeepers Cole and Hitch in a character-driven, bullet-hard Wes... more »tern based on Robert B. Parkers novel. As the woman who arrives in town with only a dollar and a keen sense of survival, Renée Zellweger adds feelings--things that can get you killed--to a quest to bring murderer Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice. Blood will spill in the town called Appaloosa.« less
""Appaloosa" combines the best of traditional and modern Westerns. Ed Harris, who directs as well as stars in the film, has created a great combination of the two perpectives in this adaptation of the Robert B. Parker (Spenser For Hire) novel.
Harris plays Virgil Cole, who with his partner Everett Hitch (played by Viggo Mortensen), roams the West as hired guns who come in and tame towns where lawlessness reigns. Such is the case in Appaloosa, which is run by rancher Randall Bragg, who killed the town marshal (an old friend of Cole's) and his two deputies. Cole and Hitch begin the cleanup process straightaway, but everything becomes complicated with the appearance in town of Allison French (played by Renee Zellweger), a young widow who captures the heart of crusty Cole and soon, the hardened lawman moves in on her. But later, she comes on Hitch, setting the stage for issues of life, future, and loyalty to be explored while the lawmen deal with the woman and the wily Bragg, who has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The look, feel, and the tone feels very traditional, but the screenplay and action are more modern in their staging, which means the language is saltier, and the action faster, just as it would be in real life. Harris and Mortensen seem like they have been acting in Westerns their entire career. Zellweger hits the right notes as a woman who does what she has to do to survive.
This is a great film, and one that most Western fans should readily enjoy."
They do what they do
R. Kyle | USA | 10/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Mortensen) are a pair of traveling lawmen for hire. When they arrive at the town of Appaloosa, the town fathers are more than willing to pay the price and accept that Cole IS the law. They're under the thumb of rich rancher, Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) who shot their former sheriff in cold blood.
They get a break in the case when a young former hand of Bragg's agrees to testify. That happens about the time when the widow, Allie French (Renee Zellweger) comes in on the train.
Allie complicates matters a lot. As Hitch so eloquently puts it, "she wants to be with the herd stallion and there can only be one of those at a time." Cole, who claims to not have feelings, actually does care for French. She's not like any woman he's ever been with, she's clean, she's got good manners, etc.
"Appaloosa" has all the elements of a great Western, a little romance, some realistic gun play, excellent characterization, great scenery (principal film site Austin, Texas) and the typical western sense of humor. For example, when a gun battle gets both men injured, Hitch says, "That was quick." Cole's response, "Yeah, everybody could shoot."
Clearly, Harris and Mortensen had a lot of fun making this film. These two are friends in real life and this project was a labor of love for Harris who said in an interview that he's a fan of the author of "Appaloosa," Robert Parker. He usually reads the detective novels, but picked up the Western because he liked the cover and that's how the movie came to be.
If you enjoyed "Pale Rider" and "Unforgiven," this is a film you'll probably want to see. The "R" rating is for a little language, small nudity, and violence, but both my husband and I have seen a lot worse on broadcast television.
Rebecca Kyle, October 2008"
A good Western
Ryan Agadoni | Whittier, CA USA | 01/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The story of Appaloosa is very similar to that of the excellent Warlock. Two mercenary "lawmen" are summoned to a town being terrorized by a local band of cowboys (led by a powerful and particularly ruthless rancher -- in Appaloosa's case, Randall Bragg played by Jeremy Irons). These lawmen are close friends and have worked together for many years, moving from town to town killing bad guys for money. They are called upon when the town's previous sheriff is murdered. They agree to clean up the town, but only if the town agrees to grant them any power they wish to do so.
Here the stories of Warlock and Appaloosa diverge. Warlock makes great use of the idea that fighting outlaws with mercenaries is a morally questionable solution, while Appaloosa features only one scene that ponders the question, even though the setup seems tailor-made for further conflict. Harris' character, Virgil, has been made uncomfortable and embarrassed by a conversation with his romantic interest (played by Renee Zellwegger), so he takes it out on some workers having a drink at the bar. Though drunk, they are doing no harm, and Harris' explosive temper and sense of impunity are first exhibited as he viciously pummels one of them before being restrained by Viggo's character (Everett). One of the town's officials questions this behavior, but beyond that it is never addressed again.
Other story similarities include a confrontation at the jailhouse (though the specifics of the scene were more reminiscent of one in Rio Bravo), a love interest that may lead to the retirement of one of the characters and the dissolution of their partnership, a final shoot-out that ends the partnership and that the title of each movie is simply the name of the town in which the action takes place.
Beyond those the story plays out in a very different fashion. There is no character equivalent in Appaloosa to Richard Widmark's outlaw-turned-lawman, Everett doesn't have any of the shadiness that Anthony Quinn's "Doc Holiday" had, and there is no betrayal among the old friends. The romantic interest also plays out very differently in Appaloosa.
Overall, the story is good, but there did seem to be a few too many Acts. I didn't mind that much, because I enjoyed all the possibly extraneous scenes, but it did feel a little long, a little less tight, even though the movie ran just under two hours. And there was one bone-headed decision that you see coming from a mile away. If you're a smart guy who has been cleaning out towns of bad guys for years now, what's the dumbest thing you can do? Very publicly fall in love with a girl who now lives in the town. I said out loud "liability and leverage" as soon as I saw Virgil go after her.
Other good points: Harris demonstrates a talent for writing (and delivering) comfortable, funny, and natural sounding dialogue. (A friend of mine said the dialogue at the beginning was bad, but I don't remember.) The relationship between Everett and Virgil is great. They effectively demonstrate respect, loyalty and love in subtle believable ways. Renee Zellwegger's character surprises you several times and turns out to be as interesting as the two leads. Irons' character doesn't have much substance to him other than "I'm a jerk," but he does have some good moments of interaction with the Virgil and Everett.
Harris, along with his DP, has a good eye for the scenery. Everything is shot on location, and it looks great. He also shoots within these locales well; I always knew where the characters were in relation to one another (which sounds simplistic, but I'm thinking of the scene on the river with the Indians where Everett rides up to meet them). I appreciated the unique camera work in the scene on the train where Allison is brought out from underneath the bridge.
Of course, I have to comment on the action and perpetrators there-of. This isn't 3:10 to Yuma (2007) or Tombstone, so the gunplay is pretty sparse. But when it happens, it's well-staged, and often unique in consequence. Virgil and Everett rescuing the kidnappers from the Indians, for example, plays out differently than you might expect. Allison has been kidnapped in order to secure Bragg's release, and Virgil and Everett have tracked them to a canyon. Before they can act, they notice a party of Indians about to raid them. They allow this until the Indians start to take Allison. Rather than shooting the Indians, Virgil and Everett shoot the pack-horse that Allison is on, and fire up into the air to scatter the raiding party. Later, Everett offers the group Bragg's horse to make up for the one they shot. Another unique scene is the shoot-out in the Mexican town. It's close-quarters and over in seconds. It also leads to one of the funniest lines in the movie.
Virgil and Everett lie on the ground, wounded but alive.
Everett: That was quick. Virgil: Yeah, everybody could shoot.
The sound design is excellent, right up there with Open Range in terms of power and realism.
And the guns! Well, The Gun, anyway.
As you may have read, Everett carries a very unique item: an 8-gauge double-barreled shotgun. Until Appaloosa, I didn't even know 8 was a possible gauge. I'd heard of 10-gauges, and only seen one or two at all the gun auctions I've been to. For those unfamiliar with the gauge system, the smaller the number, the larger the bore. 12-gauge is the most popular. My double-barrel is 12. So the 8-gauge that Everett wields is HUGE, and is mentioned specifically about five times in the beginning of the movie. There are only one or two scenes where Everett is without it, too. He lugs that honkin' thing around everywhere he goes. And you only get to see him use it twice! The other guns are all pretty standard, though I noticed Everett's sidearm is a Colt open-top conversion, which is also unique.
I recommend Appaloosa to Western fans and fans of Viggo & Ed.
The Blu-ray edition of this film sports a nice transfer, great sound, and a few decent supplements."
Ed Harris + Viggio Mortensen = An Old Fashioned Western Wit
Jana L. Perskie | New York, NY USA | 04/11/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Freelance law enforcers Virgil Cole, (Ed Harris), and Everett Hitch, (Viggio Mortensen), ride into the New Mexican town of Appaloosa one afternoon in 1882. Close-up shots reveal that neither man moves so much as a muscle on his face as each surveys the near-empty streets. And such stern faces they have!! Obviously, these two are not men to be messed with. Cole, a hardened Civil War vet, with a hair-trigger temper, has been hired by Appaloosa's local leaders to act as marshal until the area is rid of Randall Bragg, (Jeremy Irons), a wealthy rancher. New to the territory, Bragg wants to take over the region's copper mines. He and his sidekicks are a grungy band of murderous thugs. They terrorize the small town's residents, making their own rules and disrupting business as usual, often with a lethal effect. When Apaloosa's former sheriff and two deputies rode out to pay Bragg a "visit," the villain shot and killed all three men. So, Cole and Hitch are hired, and are given power to impose order, by whatever means necessary.
Everett Hitch is the deputy with a capital "D," and the film's narrator. A West Point-trained ex-cavalry officer, he has been working with Cole, traveling and cleaning up the frontier, for many years. I was really drawn to this character of many contrasts. Highly educated, articulate, introspective, and clearly a leader of men, he gave up soldiering because he was tired of fighting in the Indian Wars. Yet, Hitch makes his living through violence - shooting and killing within the limits of the law, except for once. Virgil Cole, on the other hand, is explosive, a self-taught man, who is almost the exact opposite of his partner. The two, however, share a great rapport and are completely at ease with one another. This relationship is what pulls the movie together and makes it work. Cole and Hitch are men of honor who have a deep and abiding respect for each other - friends as well as partners - sort of like Butch Cassidy and Sundance without the sense of humor! Actually, there are wryly comic moments, mostly banter, in between bursts of gunfire, and though not laugh-out-loud funny, these amusing moments do provide a break from the tension.
At this point, a lady enters the picture. Don't they always? Renee Zellweger plays Allison, (Allie), French, whose arrival coincides with the lawmen's by a day or so. Both are attracted to the lovely, refined widow, with only a dollar to her name, but Virgil wins the gal, "supposedly." He even gets her a job, playing piano at the local hotel. Allie is quite different from the "whores and squaws" both men usually associate with. There are few "ladies" in this part of the world. While Everett is tempted, he doesn't even make a play for Allie, seeing that his partner is smitten. Everett seems to place his partner's welfare before his own, without appearing overly altruistic. Allie's personality is disturbing and complex, but I will remain mum on the subject from here on - no spoilers.
The tension builds between Bragg and Cole, with Bragg trying to reach an accommodation while Cole remains implacable in his goal to bring the outlaw to justice. When a witness to the killings of the sheriff and deputies comes forward and agrees to testify, Bragg is finally arrested and brought to trial. The story and major conflicts really begin to pick-up pace at this point. Each character reveals more of his/her personality as the action gets rougher and tougher. I found the ending to be surprising and somewhat bittersweet.
The cinematography is outstanding!!!! Kudos to Australian photographer Dean Semler, who worked on "Dances With Wolves" and the TV mini-series "Lonesome Dove." There are some shots which are amazingly beautiful and worth the price of admission, or the cost of a rental, on their merit alone.
Ed Harris acts, directs, and produces "Apploosa" which is based on Robert B Parker's western novel of the same name. Harris also co-wrote the screenplay.
I love a well made Western...and this is one with a few twists. Recommended! Jana Perskie"
A western for grown-ups.It's not about the guns, horses or b
DWD | Indianapolis, IN | 11/21/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Be warned right now - this movie review is mostly one giant spoiler. Here's the non-spoiler parts right up front. This is a movie that strives to look authentic. The two main characters have known each other for years and have no need for a lot of dialogue - they know each other well, they know each other's habits and their conversations are spare.
Many reviewers have missed the whole point of the movie. It was not about two buddies/lawmen bringing peace to a town, although that does happen (mostly) and the gun fights are quick, brutal and ugly. The movie is about what happens when such a partnership is disrupted by a woman. Look at the DVD cover art and you can see it symbolically represented - there is Renee Zellweger standing between Mortensen and Harris.
****Spoiler alert****The rest of the review is just full of spoilers******
In this case, the woman is a pathetic, despicable thing. The movie comes from a Robert B. Parker book and his books are full of people (mostly women, but not always) that claim to be in love but really they are psychologically needy and act out sexually in strange, disruptive ways.
There are four main characters in this story: Marshal Virgil Cole, Deputy Everett Hitch, Bragg (a rancher/hotel owner) and Mrs. French, a pathetic woman that leeches onto powerful men out of some deep seeded need that we never quite have explained. Suffice it to say, Mrs. French is a survivor because she uses sex to endear herself to the most powerful man in her immediate area.
Many have misinterpreted (in my opinion, anyway) the "big" fight scene at the end. Here's my take
Hitch kills Bragg, but not to defend the honor of Zelweger character, Mrs. French, because she has none to defend. Instead, it is to restore Cole to his rightful place - top dog. Cole won't do anything about it because he loves Mrs. French. She's the first woman he's ever actually talked to about anything except food, sex or meaningless pleasantries - and he loves her despite her messed up, trampy ways. That is his fatal flaw.
Hitch, out of love as Cole's friend, cannot stand to see Cole shamed by Bragg so he defends Cole. Hitch kills Bragg, but in doing so he is now the top dog, rather than Bragg or Cole. In order for Cole to stay in town with the woman he loves and for that relationship to even exist, Hitch has to leave town. If he stays, Mrs. French will just try to seduce him and the Cole/Mrs. French relationship will end. Also, the Hitch/Cole relationship will end.
So, out of friendship, Cole kills Bragg so that Cole has the chance of keeping the woman he loves, even though it ends the Cole/Hitch relationship. Deputy Hitch sacrifices the friendship in order to give his friend a chance at happiness with Mrs. French. Truly, a beautiful moment, although subtly played."