We keep hearing about the demise of the western genre of movies, but fortunately Ed Harris mustn’t have read the obit.
Actually, not being big fans of oaters ourselves, we only went to see Appaloosa because we felt like going to the movie show and no other nearby films whispered “Come hither.” Also because Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris look cool in the poster — like they had been handmade by God to star in western movies. Also because Renée Zeggellweggler is in it and we just can’t help staring at her weird face. We didn’t expect much from the film.
But what a happy surprise: Appaloosa is very slick flick. Actually the best mainstream film we’ve seen this year. Ed Harris, the producer-actor-director-writer-singer-caterer (also horse wrangler, best boy and key grip), stays on task: telling the story. Imagine that.
The story — a half-crazy marshall protects a town of moderately crazy citizens from the oppression of a totally-crazy cowboy gang — comes from the novel by Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser detective series. It’s dished out in spare, wry dialogue and action scenes that are coherent — that is, you can tell who is doing what and in what sequence — oh, and as a bonus, the action advances the story. I guess it must be hard to do because you see it so rarely.
Even though Appaloosa is a swell shoot-em-up — what last year’s 3:10 to Yuma should have been but wasn’t — you could, if you were goofy enough, take out all the gunplay and still have a shrewd little character study. The four main actors — Mortensen, Harris, and Zeggwillgerlerr, as mentioned above, plus baritone Jeremy Irons as the Snidely Whiplash — are so entertaining you can just sit back and enjoy their crafting of four bordeline-psychos. Especially Ziggwiggler. By sheer force of raw acting-power she can make you think she’s so beautiful (or something) that one hapless gent after another crashes on her reef.