Open Range Reviews
Final shootout scene? One of the greatest western action set-pieces of all time. Watch for that scene and that scene alone.
The story is set in Montana in 1882 (though it was filmed in Canada) and uses the range wars as the historical backdrop and context. Good choice. For those who don't know, the range wars were a series of conflicts during the late 1800s where free range ranchers competed with land barons who tried to use barbed wire to section off land and created a closed off empire for economic gain.
In this film, the story follows a veteran free range cattleman (Robert Duvall) and his crew (Costner, Abraham Benrubi, and Diego Luna) as the come into conflict with a crooked land baron (Michael Gambon) and corrupt law of a small but prospering town. It's all pretty simple stuff, and the broad plot is not very original, but it's all done pretty well, and it's a fairly solid piece of work.
It's not perfect, as it kinda takes some time ot get going, and a romantic subplot between Costner's Charley and Annette Bening's character is a little awkward and sloppily handled, but other than that, this is a pretty engaging and entertaining piece of work. It's got some great cinematography, a nice mixture of philosophizing and humor injected into the drama and action, and the film's centerpiece: a drawn out shoot out between the baron's men and the open rangers is a masterful setpiece in its own right. I just love how it was staged, shot, and edited. It's very suspenseful, and you can actually tell what the heck is going on, unlike too many contemporary action scenes.
All in all, this is a nice piece of work. It is flawed, but the direction, camerawork, and especially the performances (especially Duvall's) really make up for it. Give it a watch. If Costner never directs another film, then this is a fine way to wrap up that portion of his career.
The western genre isn't doing that well anymore. After Kevin Costner's 'Dances With the Wolves' and Clint Eastwood's 'Unforgiven', it's been kinda slow for the cowboys. It took over a decade before a considerable western was made. It wasnt' a big surprise that Costner did it. He really seems to have the ability to capture the magic of the era.
'Open Range' tells the story of two free-range cattlemen, who get in to trouble with a local land baron. He hates the way of these free-rangers who "steal and destroy" his lands (these kinda conflicts weren't that unusual in the late 19th century and several westerns were made in the golden era of westerns in the 40's and 50's). Things result in terrible ways, which leads to Boss Spearman (Duvall) and Charley Waite (Costner) prepare to defend themselves and to get some justice.
'Open Range' is a typical western, from the storyline point of view. Costner has yet managed to increase the suspense towards the end finale and capture the "old spirit" of westerns. The story develops in a calm way but doesn't fail to be draging or boring. Costner has given plenty of time for character development, revealing glimpses of the two main characters past.
There are a few complaints regarding the movie. 'Open Range' could've been edited some minutes shorter by not adding a useless sub plot regarding Costner's and Annette Bening's characters relationship. There are some scenes, not gonna mention when and where for spoilers, that have some very queasy and implausible dialogue. It just didn't work that well.
The cinematography of 'Open Range' is beautiful with longlasting shots of the beautiful landscape. Jim Muro has also managed to capture the tension of the shootout. The shootout is by the way one of the best I've seen. I've mentioned lately in my reviews the word realistic. This does look realistic and Muro has had some terrific eye for capturing it all on the big screen. Nicely choreographed by the way.
'Open Range' is one of the better westerns I've seen, eventhough it doesn't deliver anything new to the genre. Nice chemistry between the two main characters, good dialogue between them and all together good acting by the actors. Considerable westerns haven't been made that many lately (3:10 to Yuma), so 'Open Range' is a welcomed addition to a genre that needs some glimpse of hope.
The story about how he made the flick and what he was going through is pretty interesting as well.
There were only a few things in the flick that I thought were on the weak side but the rest of the action and story make up for the few small faults.
Kevin Costner's directorial atmosphere ranges from subtle sobriety to overblown extremes, and whether it be because Costner is answering for the atmospheric extremes that were criticized as too overblown in something like "The Postman", or whatever, he tends to resort to that somberness which gets to be more dull than thoughtful, considering how draggy material gets to be. The film is the shortest that Costner has done, by a long-shot, but that's not saying much, as the final product still flirts with a runtime of 140 minutes, partly because it gets to be limply over-extensive with its telling of a story whose momentum was always to be limited to begin with by the narrative's being more chatty than the usual western. This intense western drama is characterized by, of all things, a lack of action, and while the action-packed pay-off which I will touch a little more upon later is ever so worthy of the wait, for the most part, this is a minimalist drama of only so much in the way of a feel for consequentiality, resulting in natural shortcomings that the writing make all the worse with the aforementioned structural pacing problems, and Costner's directions tries a little too hard to make up for. Like I said, when Costner doesn't get coldly subtle with his atmosphere, he usually gets overblown, and sure enough, in here, there are times in which Costner resorts to sentimentality that is not too disconcerting in a film that is arguably over-reliant on the thoughtfulness, but is nonetheless detrimental to a sense of genuineness that is already challenged by some thin characterization, made all the more contrived by melodramatics which aren't even refreshing. I suppose this intimate western drama challenges up formula by being more about the build towards action, rather than sheer action itself, but beyond that, this is something of a garden-variety half-traditional and half-revisionist western drama, and that establishes a predictability which a film this aimless probably can't afford to have. For the most part, the drama is very effective, for all of its natural and consequential shortcomings, but make no bones about it, this film is a little limp on paper, and a little flimsy in execution. Really, the final product comes dangerously close to collapsing shy of a rewarding point that is still well-secured in the end, by tasteful dramatic storytelling and, for that matter, tasteful artistic elements.
Composing his final score which would be unveiled in his lifetime, Michael Kamen, with his sentimentality and conventions as a composer, helps neither the sentimentality nor the conventions of the film itself, but he does help a great deal in flavoring up the film, with a taste and range that is both beautiful and complimentary to the drama. Just that can be said about the visual style of the film, as J. Michael Muro's near-impeccably lit and often grand cinematography falls over art direction by Gary Myers that, while not too intricate, does a fine job of restoring the era portrayed here comfortably enough to immerse, but not without Kevin Costner's usage of both style and substance. Costner turns in a directorial performance that is about as stylish as any by him, playing with the aforementioned musical and visual styles, as well as some snappy editing by Miklos Wright, in a manner that is subtle, but not so subtle that it doesn't make up for some entertainment value which is lost with the shortage on action, and when action really comes into play, in a lengthy climactic shoot-out, the flashy style bonds with impeccable technical value, airtight pacing, and punishingly tense and exhaustingly dynamic staging in order to craft an action sequence that, plain and simple, ranks high among the greatest in western film history, and is well-worth waiting for, yet not exactly preceded by great challenges to ones investment. Costner alternates between dully dry and overbearingly sentimental with his dramatic atmosphere, like he always has, and while his dramatic highlights are not as recurrent or as effective as they were in something like "Dances with Wolves", when he reaches a balance between the thoughtfulness and the color, as he often does, he compels, pretty thoroughly, enough so to match ambition with inspiration that a story of this type is worthy of. Formulaic and lacking in action to reinforce a sense of consequentiality, but still interesting as a many dramatically intimate western, this film's story concept, for all its natural shortcomings, is compelling, with a potential that Costner does much justice as director, and Craig Storper and Lauran Paine do a fair bit of justice as writers of a script that has some solid highlights in dialogue, as well as some decent spots in often thin characterization. Well, the characterization at least feels as though it has well-rounded aspects, thanks to strong performances that are found across the board, particularly from, say, Annette Benning as a wise and strong woman who still fears for the lives of good men whose portrayers are just as, if not more effective, with Costner being about as compelling as a strong, but flawed man who is anxious about doing yet more deeds he's not proud of, yet feels are necessary, as Robert Duvall is as the charismatic, but still unpredictably fierce older man of honor. Costner's and Duvall's individual charismas bond into electric chemistry, and if nothing else gets the film by when material lapses, it's the worthy leads who, make no mistake, don't endear alone, as there is enough inspiration to style and storytelling to overcome shortcomings, natural and consequential, and reward.
In conclusion, bland atmospheric dry spells make all the more limp a draggy structure to the telling of a minimalist and not-so-action-packed narrative, whose fair deal of sentimental touches and great deal of conventions leave the final product to run a risk of collapse into underwhelmingness that is ultimately overcome, by beautiful scoring, cinematography and art direction, sharp directorial style - especially during one of the great western gunfights at the climax - and thoughtfulness, and strong performances by and chemistry between Annette Benning, Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall that do enough justice to a worthy story to make "Open Range" a generally rewarding western drama.
3/5 - Good
Annette Bening is also excellent (bravely playing her age); and she makes a nice counterpoint to Costner. Robert Duvall also gives another distinctive performance, and nicely balances Costner as well. It's action sequences are brutal and realistic. Truth: You can't hit a damn thing with those Colts past a few yards! While the story is Shane-like, it avoids the cliches of most westerns about gunslingers searching for a more peaceful existence. It's not grand or epic, but you really grow to like the characters and the dialogue is well done, with Costner and Duvall totally believable. Only moderately paced, it is an explosion of action at times, with tension spaced out through the film. It's not melodramatic, either, so the believability factor that a small scale conflict like this probably could have occurred is reinforced.
An enjoyable film all around, even if you're not a western fan.