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Open Range | Review

Very Pale Rider

This watered-down vision of the Old West is a long haul, but lovers of the Western will love Duvall and the heightened gun fight finale.

I would guess that if it isn’t the baseball cap that Kevin Costner prefers to wear it is most definitely the comfort of a beaten-up cowboy hat. Sitting in the director’s chair for the fourth time, Costner dives back into his love for the story that features the cowboy.

Following a simple classic narrative formula of deep in thought characters, open sky, great plains, slow pacing and a couple of gun shots Open Range’s self explanatory introduction is way too Marlboro Man in Marlboro country-ish. Samples of nice open country images for atmospheric purposes are integrated into this ever-so slow build up tale of revenge, except that it is hard to be convinced by the

reasonings behind the feud, is it about the threat to their livelihood or is it about a dead buddy or about a dead doggy? –whatever the reason, what bites even more is the revolving door hospital, the quick love connection and the slow-pacing and long runtime.

At the very beginning of this film there is this wheel stuck in the mud sequence that pretty much foreshadows the type of sentiment I had while watching the entirety of the picture. Texturized with mush-filled overcoat of little white dogs in flower-filled fields, cowboys with broken down hats and one week-old beards and polite romances and promises of one-thousand kisses, this Western is far from the luminosity of Dances with Wolvesand closer to the disappointment of a Wyatt Earp. What miraculously saves this film from being among the bottom feeders of the year is Duvall’s (Assassination Tango) performance which shows why he is a living legend by his great screen presence where as Costner looks as if he’s just reading his lines. What Costner does get right is the beautifully choreographed empty-the-town gun battle–think of what the street face-off in Heat would look like a couple of centuries back. This sequence is a nice tribute to the Western films, where the gun fight doesn’t go overboard into superhuman heroics. Unfortunately, this final act sequence gets tossed aside for an ending which lacks in inspiration such as the characterizations of the town’s load of villains.

With a little heart and barely any legs, Open Range is perhaps a great trip to the theatres for the folk in the Midwest, but for those of us expecting the next best thing after Unforgiven we get an understanding of why this genre got stampeded out—because of boredom. Perhaps the remake of The Alamo will fulfill our need and perhaps Costner should let go of this genre of film.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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