Say the words "Kevin Costner" and "western" in the same sentence and most people immediately think of Dances With Wolves. However, there was another film in that genre in which he starred with Robert Duvall that, while not a bad film, was pretty unremarkable as well.
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Duvall and Costner star in Open Range, a film that is really a classic western story in so many ways. They are two cattlemen who keep their herd free-grazing, meaning they wander where there is a place for them to graze. Unfortunately, they wander too close to a town that's under the control of a corrupt sheriff and a local rancher. The rancher hates free-grazers with a passion.
One of their two hands goes into the town unaware of what they are up against. When he doesn't return, Charley and Boss (Costner and Duvall) head in, only to find him in the town's jail on trumped-up charges. Threats are made and although they return to their cattle seemingly unscathed, they haven't heard the last of the evilness of the people from the town.
The story is familiar and unsurprising in many ways. What makes it excel beyond this are the performances of Costner and Duvall. Both are veterans of the genre and seem to enjoy the setting they are in. They are comfortable and natural in the film and that goes a long way to bringing their characters to life.
Annette Bening is a love interest for Charley in the town. It was nice to see a mature relationship here, with Charley's love interest not being someone half his age. In this era, Sue Barlow (Bening) was at the age where she was considered an "old maid" and not looking for love. That they both find it and are surprised by it is a refreshing change and another aspect of the film that bolsters it quite a bit.
Costner also directed. Credit must be given to him for some beautiful scenery. The cinematography is excellent and it would seem Costner has a knack for eyeing a shot to get the most from it. This makes for a beautiful film on a widescreen television with some of the most beautiful and vivid shots I've seen in a western.
Still, For the most part I thought Open Range was a film I'd seen before. It has some great elements to it, but there's not much new here or groundbreaking. It feels like it's running a bit long after a while and it does run longer than two hours. I can't say it really drags, but it's long. I can't say there's a lot of room for better editing as it's pretty tight already, but the film feels every bit of its length.
On DVD, it's a two-disc set and the second disc has the bulk of the extra features on it. Along with a commentary on the film by Costner, there's a good "Making Of" featurette, some deleted scenes, and a featurette about the American west. It's good augmentation to the film without being overkill.
While I liked Open Range, it's not something that I have the need to see again nor would I recommend it for someone to run right out and watch. It's something that is good if you happen to come across it, but the story isn't all that different from many other westerns I've seen before. Still, with some good acting and beautiful cinematography, it rises above the potential for mediocrity.
• Audio Commentary with Director and Star Kevin Costner
• Beyond Open Range documentary on making the film
• America's Open Range
• Deleted Scenes
© 2010 Patti Aliventi
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