Are there two more stronger, silenter types in modern movies than Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen? Each of these actors are a throw back to the days when cowboy stars were manly men who mean what they say and only say what they mean and nothing else.
Harris (who also directs) and Mortensen are gunmen hired to bring law and order to the City of Appaloosa, New Mexico. Their main target is cop killer Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), but their job is complicated when a flirtatious woman (Renée Zellweger) comes between them.
Appaloosa comes a year after 3:10 to Yuma and The Assassination of Jesse James gave the western genre a shot in the arm. It’s closer in spirit to the former than the latter—meaning that it is a straightforward genre piece that if it had been made 50 years ago would have starred Alan Ladd and Randolph Scott. Like Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven, Appaloosa is a great Western cow opera about men looking inside themselves to discover the true essence of their lives. It doesn’t have the gravitas of Eastwood’s classic, and the economy of dialogue between the leads—there are conversational gaps you could drive a truck through—gets a bit tiresome after a while, but Appaloosa should satisfy viewers who long for the days when men wore chaps and spittoons were a welcome decorative addition to any home.
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