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Open Range

Starring: Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner
Director: Kevin Costner
Genre: Western
Year: 2003
Rating: 4 / 5

My opinion on Kevin Costner is not necessarily unique, but it does feature some rather unusual twists. Like most fans, I herald his earliest work as some of his finest, specifically turns in The Untouchables, Bull Durham, and Field of Dreams. I also scoff at the majority of his efforts in the 1990s, most notably Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - with an assist from Canadian wailer Bryan Adams – and The Bodyguard. However, I do relish his two apocalyptic roles, those in Waterworld and The Postman, although more the former. Costner has had his stumbles throughout his career, but he has also produced some excellent work. I am happy to say that Open Range, a classic western tale in the vein of Unforgiven, is one of his best offerings in years.

Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charlie Waite (Costner) are two aging cowboys, pushing herds of cattle across the frontier in rugged 1882 America. Partners for nearly a decade, the two seem to want little more out of life than clear skies and open country. The two both have skeletons in their closet, but their friendship is more about the here and now. After a freak rainstorm forces them to send one of their hired hands to town for supplies, however, their friendship is put to the test. Violence strikes in the form of tyrannical landowner Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), a man who wants these “freegrazers” off his lands. Not ones to be pushed around, Boss and Charlie are determined to make a stand and right the wrongs that have befallen them.

In response to a review or two that I had read prior to seeing this film, I set myself to determining whose movie this actually is. Does Robert Duvall carry the film or does Kevin Costner? One review went so far to say that Duvall hoists the film onto his back for the first two hours before Costner “hijacks” it at the conclusion. In reality, allow me to say that these two screen icons share equally in the film. Just as their characters undergo a certain metamorphosis as the action picks up, so to do the actors. The true “star,” though, might be Kevin Costner the director. Costner brilliantly captures the majestic vistas which continue to draw these two long-time friends, and he establishes a deliberate pacing that allows the film to build until its climactic sequences.

Open Range excels because it caters to a mature, seasoned viewer, eschewing many of the pyrotechnics which litter most summer fare and eliminating a great many of the clichés that bog down similar films. The town which holds most of the film’s action features a grittier but more real look to it, and the townsfolk actually come across as real people instead of inflated caricatures. Michael Gambon does ham it up as the movie’s central villain, but the film overcomes this due to its focus on the friendship the two leads share as well as a budding romance with a local played by Annette Bening. Open Range is a distinct flavor onto itself, a character-driven tale that surpasses its genre’s usual boundaries and leaves a lasting impression.


Robert Duvall..........Boss Spearman
Kevin Costner..........Charlie Waite
Annette Bening..........Sue Barlow
Michael Gambon..........Denton Baxter

Certification: Rated R for violence.
Running Time: 135 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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