Open Range Kevin Costner

Open Range Kevin Costner
Nothing saps a western more than a big theme. Eastwood did it successfully with Unforgiven and the genre has been happily left alone ever since. Leave it to Kevin Costner, then, to go where no man should thereafter and every man has done since — employ every cliché known to man. And we are left to bear witness. The plot is a simple one. Director/producer Costner plays Charley Waite, an itinerant cowboy with an aversion for towns and all things emotionally-related. He and his like-minded crew run into some trouble when a local cattle baron doesn't cotton to their free-grazing ways, a predicament that leads them into a showdown at high noon. Along the way they meet a purdy spinster lady (an under-used Annette Bening) and shoot some holes in some varmints. Get the picture? For a story set in the West, it would have been nice to have the visuals speak for themselves. Yet almost every panoramic shot we are presented with comes accompanied by a sweeping score. Why must every shot without a person in it be filled with sound? You become almost desirous of a quiet moment. It is just one of the many ways in which Costner, as director, misjudges his audience. Maybe this is because he is first and foremost an actor and cannot quell that profession's desire for a scene set in words. But most of all it‚s just because he can't let well enough alone. Open Range at its best can be viewed as a film about the way in which men communicate with one another — sometimes with words, sometimes with fire arms. That's why it‚s somewhat of a disappointment to see so many of the scenes in which this occurs deleted from the film's final cut. Costner explains in the "making of" documentary that this was in deference of time but it leaves us wondering at what cost? Robert Duvall, as the crew‚s boss, manages to leave the film unscathed however, lending gravely gravitas to all of his scenes. Michael Gambon, as the trigger-happy cattle baron, inexplicably summons a Lucky Charms accent in order to render his character more fearsome. This is just one of the many things that make no sense in a movie that does the same. Plus: featurettes, music video, more. (Buena Vista)

Laura Francis