Review Open Range – The characters’ principles and commitment to them is one of the numerous reasons why Westerns have fallen out of favor. In today’s action movies, team loyalty has taken the place of morals; characters act in certain ways because they want to win and the other side to lose. Most classic Westerns include a verse from the Bible as their central theme: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?” Most contemporary action films have Vince Lombardi’s famous quote as their foundation: “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Review Open Range
The main reason why Kevin Costner’s “Open Range,” a flawed but intensely absorbing and gorgeously produced Western, succeeds is because it conveys the moral principles of a cowboy named Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley, his employee of ten years (Costner). Boss disapproves of pointless violence and is willing to risk his own life rather than commit a murder only to be safe. During the Civil War, Charley was a skilled assassin. He has worked with Boss for ten years to tame this aspect of his personality. Boss is more than just his friend; he also serves as his mentor and, in a way, his spiritual guide. Charley not only collaborates with him but also acts as a sort of follower.
On the open range, the boss grazes his cattle. He hangs out with Charley, the older, big-bearded guy Mose (Abraham Benrubi), and the young boy Button (Diego Luna), who occasionally prefers to play with the dog to accomplish his tasks. When Mose sent on an errand outside of a town and doesn’t return, the two men ride after him and discover him there. The settlement governed by a rancher named Baxter (Michael Gambon), who has a crew of hired goons on his payroll and has a visceral disdain of free grazers.
Discover the child in poor condition
When the two men return to camp after freeing Mose, they discover the child in poor condition. He must visit a doctor. That would require going back to the town, and they are all aware that going back to Baxter’s dominion would put them all in danger of dying. Boss warns that this might include murder. Charley responds, “I got no problem with that.” The underlying message of the film that while Boss’ method ideal, Charley’s method is necessary when true evil is encountered.
The men visit the doctor’s home where they also meet Sue (Annette Bening), whom they initially mistake for his wife before learning is actually his sister. When Sue and Charley’s eyes lock, a powerful attraction established that lasts the whole duration of the film. She recognizes his goodness despite his gruff demeanor and cowboy grunge.
This might be the first decent woman he has ever met for him. Instead of forcing them into a fast kiss, the film skillfully highlights their knowledge and reinforces it with a few inconspicuous but brutally real discussions on Charley’s side.
Review Open Range: The romance itself strangely feels out of place in this narrative
Although I get what Costner is trying to say and respect his restraint, refusing to take the romance any further than it wants to go, the romance itself strangely feels out of place in this narrative. Violence and disease overwhelm everything, only a few days are involved, and it obvious that this visit will end in a shootout. Even though it is charming and skillfully performed, the romance feels forced into the main plot.
Baxter has the entire town in his grip. But unlike in many Westerns, when gunfights viewed as spectator sports, the citizens of the towns act in a different manner. A population of this size knows exactly what will happen, so when the confrontation draws near, they leave town and ascend the hill to the church for safety. Although in many Westerns, bodies seem to vanish after they serve their role as targets, Costner claims he spotted that detail often in ancient images. They then reassemble to analyze and deal with the dead bodies.
In most gunfights, the two sides exchange gunfire until the good guys prevail. The highlight of the film, “Open Range,” is a separate gunfight. Charley has shot at, killed, and familiar with how men react when they are terrified of being shot at. Although he and Boss outnumbered compared to their few allies, including a snarky coot played by Michael Jeter, Charley believes they still have a chance.
The most captivating speech in the film is when Charley describes to Boss how Baxter’s men will likely respond to an attack: who will freeze, who will run, and who will shoot first.
The showdown with Baxter and all of the components involving Boss and his men are accomplished with the finesse of a classic Western. The relationship between Charley and Sue, though, feels a little forced in the conclusion. Even at this stage, their romance looks vague and unfinished, thus it’s possible that they have two scenes of leave-taking when one would enough. For the sake of “Open Range,” their time together is either too much or too short, and their sad parting feels unsatisfying. However, we assume they will cross paths again.