More than once the death of the Western has been greatly exaggerated. Whenever critics are ready to hammer the final nail in the genre's coffin, someone comes along to remind us of why it is the most American of movie types. The Western has always served as a reflective template for whatever social ills and concerns are plaguing our country. Kevin Costner's Open Range is no exception. While some critics say it relies too heavily on genre conventions, a closer look reveals a sly commentary on the injustice of modern capitalism.
Traveling over the Great Plains with a modest cattle herd, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall), his partner Charley Waite (Costner), and their two hired hands, the gregarious Mose (Abraham Benrubi from "E.R.") and immature youth Button (Diego Luna), run into trouble. Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), a wealthy cattleman who has no qualms about fencing off his property, resents Spearman's free grazing and orders him to leave the territory. Sheriff Poole (James Russo) turns a blind eye to the businessman's intimidating ways, which include raiding Spearman's camp, killing one of his men and seriously wounding another. As Spearman and his men stand up for themselves, they're pushed to their limits and discover they are not the men they thought they were.
Though the film suffers from an overwrought musical score from Michael Kamen and an awkward conclusion that feels tacked on, it does a marvelous job of bringing the old West to life and paying homage to quite a few classic Westerns, including Rio Bravo, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and Unforgiven. Some say Costner's style of epic filmmaking is grandiose. But this isn't fair. The story required that Costner paint on a vast canvas. When the violence comes, as it always must, it's shocking and fierce. Duvall, of course, delivers his usual fine performance, portraying a man who matches the landscape.
(Running time 2:15, rated R)
Showplace, White Oaks
What other critics are saying . . .
Edited by Imran Siddiquee
American Wedding A comic weekend wedding, complete with bachelor party. "The grossest, least funny--and, here's hoping, the last--installment in the American Pie series." (Manhola Dargis, Los Angeles Times) Parkway Pointe, Showplace
Bruce Almighty Jim Carrey is granted sovereignty over his hometown by God. "A smart, surprisingly thought-through blockbuster, with a decent grasp of the theological implications of its idea." (Nev Pierce, BBCi) "A fable overwhelmed by special effects and outsized spectacle." (Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times) Esquire
Freaky Friday Remake of 1976 comedy in which a mother and daughter switch identities. "A funny, shrewd, no-bull family comedy." (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly) Showplace, White Oaks
Freddy vs. Jason Two horror icons meet. "Like the later chapters in both of these seemingly endless movie series, it all seems just a bit too familiar and a bit too obvious as to what's coming next." (Brian Webster, Apollo Guide) Parkway Pointe, Showplace
Grind An ex-con shows up at his brother's door and threatens his family's well-being. "Once it settles into its labored tale of fraternal betrayal, adultery and forgiveness, the movie loses its footing and becomes a series of strained, melodramatic encounters performed by actors who appear too upscale for their characters." (Stephen Holden, New York Times) Showplace
Hollywood Homicide A veteran and rookie cop get their off-duty hobbies mixed up in a murder case. "One of the most lazily scripted, poorly structured, smugly stereotyped star vehicles in recent memory." (Ty Burr, Boston Globe) "It's a movie an audience can settle comfortably into, and it pays off as it goes along." (Mike LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle) Esquire
Legally Blonde 2 Lovable brainiac heads to Congress to fight for animal rights. "Moves at such a brisk, easy clip that there isn't much time to linger over its flaws." (Manhola Dargis, Los Angeles Times) "The first one was silly fun, amusing and oddly inventive; the second is plodding, unfunny and almost cringe-worthy." (Claudia Plug, USA Today) Marty McKee's grade: D+. Route 66 Drive In
Nowhere in Africa True story about a Jewish family that escapes the Nazis in WWII and starts up a farm in Kenya. "It is so rare to find a film where you become quickly, simply absorbed in the story. You want to know what happens next." (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times) White Oaks
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl "In a movie based on a Disney theme-park ride . . . the most high-flying, jaw-dropping special effect of the summer is . . . Johnny Depp." (Ty Burr, Boston Globe) "Depp keeps the film delightfully off balance with his unpredictable comic weave." (Sean Axmaker, Seattle-Post Intelligencer) Chuck Koplinski's grade: B+. Parkway Pointe, Showplace
Rugrats Go Wild Second feature based on the popular cartoon series about loud-mouthed babies. "Stick a fork in the Rugrats movie franchise. It's done." (Nancy Churnin, Dallas Morning News) Esquire
Seabiscuit The horse, its jockey, and the men who made them famous. "A Depression underdog saga, the movie also is standout alternative programming to an oft-deadly sequel summer." (Mike Clark, USA Today) Chuck's grade: A. Parkway Pointe
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over "Frontrunner for 2003's most mindless and physically offensive movie-going experience." (Nicholas Schager, Slant) "The Spy Kids movies have allowed [director Robert] Rodriguez to exercise his playful muscles, and the new one is no exception." (Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune) Chuck's grade: B+. White Oaks
S.W.A.T. Film version of the old television show. "A big, near-incoherent action thriller best suited for audiences who don't mind being pummeled into submission." (Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune) "Offers up the kind of pleasures that only a summer movie can." (Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post) Parkway Pointe, Showplace
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines Arnold Schwarzenegger comes back, again, as an android fighting another, more advanced robot. "A taut, exciting science-fiction thriller that pumps up our adrenaline without forgetting to engage our heads. . . . The movie also plays as a more palpable cautionary tale about humans' ceding control to machines than The Matrix Reloaded." (Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune) "Mainly the problem is a weak story that throughout seems to be building toward something it never quite reaches." (Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle) Chuck's grade: B. Route 66 Drive In
Uptown Girl A former "It" girl gets a job as a nanny and grows close to the little child in her care. "Can two lonely hearts come together as one, rendering them Best Friends? I don't care, and neither should you." (Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) Showplace