Rated NR

This is, in many respects, the most traditional of all the recent Westerns, neither adding anything new to the genre nor self-consciously commenting on it. Judged solely as a Western, it’s a pretty good one. Ed Harris (who also directs and co-writes) stars as Marshal Virgil Cole, hired to protect the town of Appaloosa from Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his band of bad men. Irons is really good in the role, doing something of a twist on Daniel Day-Lewis’ There Will Be Blood act. There’s also a nice turn by Viggo Mortensen as Virgil Cole’s deputy, Everett Hitch. Mortensen gives a true supporting performance here, fading back in a generous way that shows he cares more about craft than about being a star. The only downside is Renée Zellweger as the love interest. I just find her annoying: She always looks like she’s sucking a lemon while thinking about a grapefruit. But whatever; the plot is classic but fresh, has some good twists, includes four decent shootouts and ends with just the right sort of cliché. I will say that someone rides off, and that as that person rides off, the sun appears to be setting, but I’ll leave it to you to determine if, in fact, that person is riding off into the sunset.


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