November 1, 2004
Starring: Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter, Diego Luna, James Russoe, Abraham Benrubi, Dean McDermott, Kim Coates, Herb Kohler, Peter MacNeill, Cliff Saunders, Patricia Stutz, Julian Richings, ,
Similarities between Clint Eastwood’s Oscar winning Unforgiven and this old fashioned Western effort from Kevin Costner are inevitable. While this doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of Eastwood’s masterpiece – it’s still a powerful and convincing piece laced with emotional depth and humour. It’s also a fine directorial effort from Costner and features two terrific central performances from the man himself and Robert Duvall.
The setting is 1882 and four men, ‘Boss’ Spearman (Duvall), his partner of 10 years Charlie Waite (Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna), drive their cattle across the West employing a lawful process called ‘Free Grazing’. This means their cattle can graze on any land, anywhere.
Unfortunately for them not all landowners approve of free grazing including mad Irishman Baxter (Michael Gambon) who runs the small town the group have set-up in. When Moses is attacked following a supply run, Boss & Charlie confront Baxter and his corrupt lawmen only to discover a town terrified by intimidation and greed.
The scenario soon becomes a ‘kill or be killed’ set-up where Boss & Charlie are forced to fight for their livelihood and, ultimately, lives.
Costner deftly veers from character driven comedy, drama and romance into shocking gunfights and heavyset themes of murder and revenge. The relationship between Boss & Charlie is enriched with a sense of complexity and gravitas shifting from father-son to teacher-pupil with a strong aura of bravery and heroism. This is made all the more affecting because of the respect and love the men have for each other.
Undercutting the violence is the blossoming romance between Charlie and the town doctor’s sister Sue (Bening). Touching without being too obvious – there is something in both Costner and Bening’s faces that suggest pasts blighted by disappointment.
Costner, the actor, delivers a far darker turn than is usual suggesting Charlie is emotionally scarred by a past of brutal violence. Costner, the director, utilises the stunning landscapes quite marvellously with empty plains and rivers in full, stunning Technicolor.
The climatic gunfight is a brilliantly orchestrated shoot-out, which Costner infuses with a sense of realism and genuine edge-of-the-seat thrills.
Open Range is both moving and genuinely entertaining.
Universal offer the film in 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer that is crisp and clear while the soundtrack is extremely impressive. The gunfight at the end of the film is very realistic on the DTS track.
Extras include the lengthy documentary ‘Beyond Open Range’ which goes into great detail regarding locations, budget and casting.
The audio commentary from Costner is interesting if a little self congratulatory however so impressive is the movie itself that most viewers will, no doubt, be keen to hear what he has to say.
The second documentary entitled ‘Americas Open Range’ is narrated by Costner and observes the history of the real American Frontier, which is both entertaining and educational.
Deleted scenes are valuable although necessarily omitted from the final piece to avoid a 3-hour plus, bum-numbing marathon. A six minute story board sequence and four minute music video round out the extras.