Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Apaloosa: Grade C

Apaloosa (2008)
Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons. Co-writer and Director Ed Harris (also co-produced).

In the 1880's, two cowboys (Harris and Mortensen) arrive in the small New Mexico town of Apaloosa, which is being terrorized by a gang of brutal lowlifes working for Jeremy Irons. The cowboys agree to save the town if the townspeople make them autocratic sheriff and deputy with absolute power. I can’t remember which Leone/Eastwood film this story is taken from, but it is a well-used cliche. The clinker in this tale is that Harris falls for Zellweger, who arrives without explanation or purpose from St. Louis, dressed in city finery. After a non-believable, instantaneous courtship, they are building a house (with 20th century dimensional lumber and balloon framing) on the edge of town. This development adds complexity to Harris’ tough cowboy character, but that complexity is never explored. It just exists as a contradiction. You know as soon as Zellweger steps off the stagecoach that there will be a hostage situation. Finally the bad guys are shot up and all is well, the end. There is no real character development.

Harris and Mortensen give exceptional performances despite the weak script. Zellweger is a lead weight. I don’t know what has happened to her. She used to be a good actor. Here she just tries to be cute and it is painful to watch. She seriously spoils the movie. Scenery is good, but costumes and sets are precious. Music is nondescript. There are numerous anachronisms in sets, speech, and behavior. Overall, the movie has the archetypal dusty western scenes you expect to see, but it is emotionally and intellectually flat. It might be worth seeing just to get a look at Harris’ and Mortensen’s performances.

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