MPAA rating: R for "Refund necessary"Genre:
Western? Love story? It's kinda hard to tell... Starring:
Ed Harris and his horseshoe hairline, Viggo Mortensen and the world's worst facial hair, a fuglier-than-usual Renee Zellweger (we'll get to her, don't worry), and Jeremy Irons... Wait, what? Jeremy Irons? In a cowboy flick? Isn't he INCREDIBLY British? The overview:
Two hired guns (Harris and Mortensen) enforce the law in 1880's New Mexico Territory. While trying to legally arrest the man responsible for gunning down Appaloosa's former sheriff, someone who used to look like Renee Zellweger gets off at the train stop in town to start a new life here. Why she chose this town is never explained but she does manage to scare the audience with her Frankenstein-sucked-on-a-lemon good looks and she also manages to capture the heart of the new sheriff, Virgil Cole (Harris). After the love interest is introduced, things get pretty lame, pretty quickly.
While Westerns might not be your cup of meat, sometimes you stumble upon one that's just a little different and a little better. Back To The Future Part III. Young Guns. Unforgiven. Maybe not necessarily in that order but you get my drift. There have been so many Westerns made, you'd think all the good story lines had been made into movies already. Well, you're right. Appaloosa is not a good story. I take that back... It might be a good story, since it was based on the book of the same title, written by Robert B. Parker. Apaloosa the movie, though, is a hodgepodge of unlikely events, unexplained decisions, and many noticeably omitted Western staples. Let's just start from the beginning, shall we?...
The movie opens with Jeremy Irons killing three dudes on horseback. Ok. Jeremy Irons is a Shakespearean actor, classically trained, who is more believable in a monocle and black turtleneck than as any kind of Old West outlaw. I overlooked this... Not five minutes later, I noticed one of the extras (a kid) look directly into the camera! I even accepted Viggo Mortensen's obviously glued on mustache. But when I saw Bridget Jones walk onto the screen... Well, I turned to my wife and said, "s**t. I hate this movie already."
This movie could've been good. It started out like any other Western but morphed into a badly written Old West love story with one awkward kiss. It seems as if Ed Harris really might've loved the book and in the interest of getting the film made, he was forced to chop probably another 45 minutes worth of movie he wanted to make since it was already nearly two hours long. Unfortunately, the cut or never-made scenes were probably the ones needed to establish the relationships between the characters. Ed Harris plays Virgil Cole, a stoic, leathery, no-s**t-takin' sheriff. He's certainly the toughest guy in the cast but ultimately ends up playing the biggest p***y. He somehow turns into a 12-year-old boy whenever he has to talk to Allie French (Zellweger) but throughout the movie, I don't recall seeing the two of them embrace or kiss or cry over one another or do anything other than hold hands and talk about each other like they were in junior high. Here's an actual line, spoken by Virgil to his deputy, understudy, and best friend, Everett Hitch (Mortensen) when Hitch mentioned the new girl had asked about him...
"Did she ask about me in a liking way?"
Jesus, Virgil. Are you kidding me? Why don't you just slip her a note between classes that says "Do you like me? Check yes or no!" There are several Virgil Cole-ism's sprinkled throughout this movie, actually. And not to deviate here, but check the poll question to the right to vote for the best one. Moving on...
The relationships between the three main characters are confusing at best and mistaken for indifference at worst. There are also many many many plot holes to look over (why did Allie choose Appaloosa to relocate to? Why didn't Bragg's gang just kill the witness before trial?) but I think the most irritating thing about this movie for me was that I didn't believe anything like this would ever happen. Here's a quick rundown of some more horse-s**t I was asked to believe...
- Virgil and Allie buy a house after two dates.
- When given the opportunity to let Indians kill the outlaws Virgil and Everett are after, they run the Indians off so they can arrest the people they were about to kill. Then Virgil says they shouldn't kill each other while there are Indians around. Wait... If your plan was to kill them, why did you run off the Indians? They were just about to kill those douchebags FOR you!
- After Virgil realizes that Allie will f**k anything that moves, he still comes back to her. Over and over. I guess real cowboys are into Sloppy 2nds. And 3rds. And 47ths. Cuz really... She got around.
- There's almost no swearing in the movie. Not like what I've come to expect from watching Deadwood
. "God damn quagmire of p**s and bulls**t!"
Now that's good writing!
- And the other two glaring omissions: gunfights and whores. There are no less than seven conversations between Virgil and Everett about their feelings throughout the whole film. Yet there are only two gunfights and one (likable, prophetic) whore. And the whore only f**ks one guy in the movie, which is one or two less than Allie French, who's just a regular slut, I guess.
I guess I just didn't get this movie. I've read a lot of reviews that claimed it was a good ol' fashioned Western but I strongly disagree. I'm not exaggerating when I say Virgil and Everett talk about their feelings nonstop. It happens over and over. It's noticeable and you'll roll your eyes too, after the umpteenth time it happens. The tagline for this movie, which is on the movie poster itself, is "Feelings Get You Killed"
For a movie with that tagline, they sure do spend an awful lot of time openly discussing theirs. And I'm a 21st century guy, I'm OK with crying and talking about women in a respectful manner and all that happy horses**t but I refuse to believe this was commonplace during these times and in this kind of place. Feelings might
get you killed but talking about them everywhere you go will certainly
get your ass kicked. When I think of a good Western movie, I think of a former gunslinger coming out of retirement to exact revenge for a injustice that just doesn't sit right with him (see: Unforgiven
). Or something like that. Gimme Clint Eastwood, man. This whole movie felt more like a case study in muted homosexual attraction in the late 19th century frontier towns. Or at best, like a watered down Brokeback Mountain
with a woman thrown in the mix. For the record, I didn't like Brokeback because I don't like love stories. And thinking about it now, I realize that's why I didn't like this movie. It was a love story that happened to be a Western but it tried too hard to be both and didn't have the right elements to be either... Not enough chemistry between Zellweger and Harris to be a love story (not to mention her obvious recent facial surgery... Seriously, I'm sure I saw her dragging an IV bag once) and not enough grit, violence, spitting, swearing, or gunslinging to be a proper Western.
The attempt to cram all this information from the book succeeded in leaving out the character definition. You can move the story along this way but it's far more important to explain to the audience WHY Everett gets upset when Virgil starts seeing Allie more. His initial reaction borders on homoerotic jealousy. If it weren't for my wife mentioning the student-teacher relationship between Virgil and Everett, I would've assumed that there was sexual tension simmering between those two. Nothing led me to believe otherwise. And because the relationship between the two was never explained fully, I almost missed a crucial point to the story. And what's supposed to be between Virgil and Allie is... Well... I never see it. He stays with her even though she doesn't do anything for him, and when I say that, I mean she doesn't do so much as cook him breakfast. She just tries to get it on with Everett... Which is also an unnecessary, unexplained plot twist that results in nothing happening later on. Allie is already with the Big Dog in Appaloosa, Sheriff Virgil Cole. Her trying to kiss Everett made no sense. If he reciprocated, then OK, now we got us a love triangle movie on our hands... But he pushed her away and it was brought up later in the movie as casually as if Everett had said, "By the way, I got new boots today... Oh, and your girl tried to get on my junk earlier." Instead, this movie went bad at every turn. Every opportunity to right this ship was missed. I think it tried to be both a love story and an action Western. Instead, it failed to do either genre very well. Sorry, Hollywood. There's no demographic interested in a Bromance Western.Overall:
4 out of 10. I give all the credit for saving this movie from being kindling to Viggo Mortensen. Awesome mustache aside, Viggo plays Everett perfectly and if you're forced to watch this movie you can still get some enjoyment out of watching him act. His lines are few but his presence is immense. He's always carrying around his 8-gauge shotgun and every scene he's in you can watch him studying his surroundings. His mannerisms, his posture, his walk, his poker face... He's an awesome actor who still put everything into playing this character. A sequel about Everett Hitch would be worth seeing.Best Scene:
After Virgil gets the lowdown from Everett about Allie trying to get a 19th-century mustache ride from him, she asks Virgil, "So you're gonna believe his word over mine. Is that it?"
To which Virgil replies, "That is correct." What my wife said
: Actually, she got increasingly p**sed at this movie for the same reason(s) I did: Allie French. Here's a few of the gems she shouted at the TV...
"Goddammit, lady... Who invited you into this plot anyway?" Who would enjoy this movie
"I hope they shoot her... Crazy b***h."
After Allie b***hes about Virgil always being gone doing lawman stuff:
"That's what he does, ya dumb f**k!"
: If you like Louis L'Amour books, you'd probably like Appaloosa.Watch it if you like: