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Review: Open Range

Kevin Costner’s anachronistic mindset is perfectly in tune with the mentality of the time he’s trying to summon.

Open Range
Photo: Touchstone Pictures

Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charley White (Kevin Costner) are free grazers who see their cattle stolen by a group of men in cahoots with a nearby town’s sheriff. They’re law-abiding men, which means they don’t take kindly to those who cheat at cards, not to mention anyone who’d kill an innocent pooch (yes, there’s a reason why Charley’s dog gets so much screen time). Like Bob Ross, Costner knows how to evoke the wholesome, untainted splendor of a spacious sky and purple-mountain-majesty, but there’s plenty of dead screen time between the film’s misty opening sequence and the riveting shootout that brings a town together in democratic uplift. Despite Costner’s best efforts, Open Range is nowhere near as philosophically or aesthetically elaborate as Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Because Costner so successfully uses the torrents of nature to evoke Charley’s many emotional ups and downs, the film is repeatedly compromised when he has his character launch into contrived self-pity. With Open Range, Duvall continues to prove why he’s the greatest living actor of our time. As the overly practical Spearman, Duvall is supposed to play second fiddle to Costner’s tortured lone ranger. But while Costner plays his ex-gunslinger’s murderous guilt for woe-is-me pathos, Duvall allows the whip of his undervalued character’s matter-of-fact outbursts to evoke a lifetime of unspoken hurt. Open Range succeeds despite the constant attention to Charley’s inner melodramas (made even more burdensome by the Michael Kamen score) because Costner’s anachronistic mindset (to score a good woman and lay down some roots) is so perfectly in tune with the mentality of the time he’s trying to summon. It also helps that Costner doesn’t allow the hurt inflicted against his oppressed free grazers to approach the wearisome political correctness of his Dances with Wolves.

Cast: Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Robert Duvall, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter, Diego Luna, James Russo, Dean McDermott, Kim Coates Director: Kevin Costner Screenwriter: Craig Storper Distributor: Touchstone Pictures Running Time: 139 min Rating: R Year: 2003 Buy: Video, Soundtrack, Book

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