Friday, February 13, 2009

Film Review: APPALOOSA (2008, Ed Harris)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 115 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, Lance Henriksen, Renee Zellweger, Timothy Spall (buddy and frequent collaborator of Ed Harris and Mike Leigh).
Tag-lines: "Feelings get you killed."
Best one-liner(s): "Never ain't here yet."

APPALOOSA's a rock solid Western. Imagine an episode of DEADWOOD directed by Ed Harris, and there ya go. They even use the 'Deadwood' font. I figure a man can judge a Western by how strong his desire to shave is afterward. Following the mustache party that was TOMBSTONE, I didn't want to shave for weeks. APPALOOSA is more of a 'I'll shave in a couple days' kinda Western. Something like HANG 'EM HIGH, I'm shaving DURING the movie. Anyway, I was worried when I heard Ed was making this movie. The last time he directed (which, incidentally, was his directorial debut) was POLLOCK. And during that film, he got so effin' intense that he collapsed and required medical attention. The only thing more intense than my desire to see Ed Harris films is my need for nothing bad to happen to Mr. Harris. Here, he evidently kept his intensity levels within a safe, non-hospitalizable margin, but you wouldn't know it from watching the film.

Just a couple of really intense buddies. On...

...and off the screen.

APPALOOSA delivers. It's absolutely beautiful to look at, Ed and Viggo Mortensen continue (albeit in a far more comradely scenario) their powerful chemistry from A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and there's excellent supporting turns from Jeremy Irons and a near-unrecognizable Lance Henriksen. Ed and Viggo slap goons in the face, and then shoot 'em down. Even Renee Zellweger can't ruin this. (And I was half-convinced that she would.) Harris directs his cast of characters with virtuosic nuance, and the centerpiece is the complex relationship between he and Viggo. Ed is in turns childish, brutal, naive, sweet, and grizzled; and the denouement rings true- it's at once a condemnation and an affirmation of Wild West ideals. Four stars. Keep on truckin', Mr. Harris.

-Sean Gill

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