Open Range Review
You could be forgiven for asking the question “Is this another Postman or Dances With Wolves?”, for amongst the gems of Costner's career have been some real duds. Thankfully, however, Open Range marks something of a return to form for the troubled director/actor, and if the excellent Thirteen Days showed us that Costner's not “all ego” and can still deliver the goods, Open Range simply reinforces this.
Telling the tale of four “free grazers” - cattlemen who roam with their herd rather than owning land - we meet Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charlie Waite (Kevin Costner), who's life on the open countryside is simple and one they're content with. The trouble is, local land owner Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) hates free grazers, and so sets about causing trouble in order to drive them off his land...
As the quartet reduces to two in tragic circumstances, Boss and Charlie are torn between a desire to go about their lives peacefully or to take the route of violence to safeguard their livelihoods. As they decide to take a stand against Baxter and his cronies they put themselves directly in the path of a host of guns, and on a positive note Sue Barlow (Annette Bening), a nurse who ends up tending more than one character as the story unfolds and provides the necessary love interest. One thing's for sure, though, it ain't going to end pretty...
Essentially this is a character driven piece, and performances are uniformly excellent. Costner shows restraint in his role, and things are all the better for the presence of Duvall, who adds weight and presence to proceedings, along with Gambon who excels as the sleazy corrupt landowner. Echoes of Unforgiven abound, with the underlying theme of killer-at-heart having to take up arms one last time, and as such there is nothing of note in terms of originality here. The pacing will also not appeal to all; sedate at best, while some might find it a little languid this is one to stick with as the ending more than makes up for it. Gunplay is limited, but this is actually a good thing as when the action starts it has real meaning, a feeling which is reinforced as every bullet fired carries impact and threat.
A slow-burner then, Open Range is a simple story, simply told. And it's simply very good. Watch it and I'm sure you'll agree.