Open Range (2003)

A typical mundane life in the West until someone steps into your property and spits the wrong way for sure guns smoke and bullets will be the last thing you’ll see!

open-range

Cobalt Media Group in association with TIG Productions and Touchstone Pictures present

From the novel of Lauran Bosworth Paine of the same title! Open Range gives a wide view look of cattlemen who takes their livestock for an exercise while roaming free to graze the land, its water and grass! While privatized owners who migrated from different countries have another agenda which is to coral their properties and discourage these “minding their own business” cowboys from using their acquired by law resources!

Directed and Co-Produced by Academy Award Winner Kevin Costner (Wyatt Earp) he is Charles Travis “Charley” Postlewaite a sullen former soldier in the Civil War with a haunted past and a Lieutenant to the Boss, he is employed by Bluebonnet “Boss” Spearman an old timer with a heart of gold and integrity that commands respect from his close group of ranchers, played by another Academy Award Winner Robert Duvall (Geronimo: An American Legend) who makes their partnership believable but not effectively translated on screen (but don’t tell anyone his true name otherwise he’ll pistol whip you and chloroform you to death).

BAFTA Nominee James Michael Muro (Flicka) and known for his work in “Crash”, he had a long list of pivotal projects mostly coming from James Cameron’s films. The Cinematographer had given a bird’s eye view of the grey skies thundering over the horizon while encompassing the landscape with sunshine and torrential rains! Working back together with Kevin since 1990 since “Dances with Wolves” they have at least made a decent film with a good setting from the plains of Alberta, Canada that was definitive enough to carry the layout of the story!

Sir Michael John Gambon (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) an Irishman who rules by his shamrock fists! He plays town owner Denton Baxter who despises free-rangers loitering in his turf! Best known for his roles as Albus Dumbledore since 2004 in the Harry Potter series, he had made his character his own, being the main villain he controlled everyone even the law but it doesn’t mean he is above the law! He lets his bullies and bullets do the talking in his posse of a dozen men!

Charley can’t help but stare at the Doctor’s assistant. Smitten by her beauty Annette Benning (American Beauty) who plays Susan Barlow, a bride in waiting for a long time captivates the cattle rancher as soon as he laid eyes on her!  A strong willed woman who is not afraid to speak her mind and her heart (for heaven sake ask the girl out already).

Supporting cast coming from the late Michael Jeter (The Boys Next Door) and Diego Luna (Fade to Black) they play Percy and Button respectively and did very convincing parts for them to get noticed. Michael also worked with Kevin in the underrated post-apocalyptic film Waterworld!

The pacing of the story was drowning in the dialogue which is kind of ironic wherein very few lines were said in the first half of the film. While on the second half, even the Rain got his own character to play, setting up a huge backdrop for the story to be told with meaning and to ante-up the conflict between the two factions. But still, Charley and Boss just “talk” about their never ending plan to get even with the antagonist’s men or just find a way to get out of trouble!

Although, there were verbal quips that can make you rub your eyes from yawning too much and get back in the saddle. It’s not that I’m expecting the gunfight to commence right away but the screenplay was mediocre and the plot was too short to play out coming from simple premise!

On the other end, you can’t help but be frustrated with Charley’s staring and his advances become stale trying to show his inhibitions towards Sue. Now this is where the fun starts Sue started to change her tone upon learning that how his new found man reciprocates his feelings towards her. But since Charley is so busy being too serious and a lover boy, his Boss will deliver the comedic parts to give some enthusiasm going within the pure redundant dialogue since the film started rolling. Waking up their prisoners and serving them morning “music and “breakfast” was definitely one thing you can put a smile at!

The film conveyed the life of cattle ranchers trying to protect their livestock that’s the way their lives come into place and when push comes to shove there will definitely be riddled holes and dead bodies at the aftermath of this range wars which was absurd, scenes like Charley’s fans his SAA (Single Action Army) Colt Cavalry Model Pistol 16 times before reloading while Robert used his 1878 shotgun to blow a hole through a barnyard wall and sends his victim flying on the other side!

It was teeming with expectation from the audience apart from the flow of selected characters that just needs a little more drama and action! Except for the fact it had too much time trying to figure out how to get on with their intended objectives the story only picked the pace when and take another notch when Mose Harris played by Abraham Benrubi (Twister) was sent out to replenish supplies from a nearby town Harmonville but he never came back, he was searched by his friends until they met the town’s Marshall Poole played James Russo (Hidden War)by who seem so eager to make problems under his de-facto tyrant Baxter!

Kevin had his ups and downs in his lifetime work in the industry even taking other ways and means to pass the time like road trips his band Modern West has been making waves in the Country music scene! Here, his direction still needs some work also some balancing of too much or too little dialogue and screen takes. I think that Writers Craig Storper with the Author had a decent adaptation of the novel, it was well intended and story driven just to let it flow carefree while the audience watches nearby to experience the surrealism of a community gone amok without regard for casualties…well you can’t deny if it’s a good day to set things right!

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