Appaloosa (2008)

Genre(s): Drama / Western
New Line || R - 115 minutes - $28.98 || January 13, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-03-05


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Ed Harris
Writer(s): Robert B. Parker (novel); Robert Knott & Ed Harris (screenplay)
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons


Theatrical Release Date: October 3, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Feature Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • 4 Featurettes


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (2.40)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are guns-for-hire. They roll into the town of Appaloosa where town leaders fear that their lawmen, after going to arrest a couple guys in Randall Braggís (Jeremy Irons) crew who are wanted to rape and murder. Point in fact, the movie opens with Braggs killing the Marshall and his two deputies... As per his normal agreement, Cole requires the town to turn over the townís law to him and Hitch in order to keep the order and ultimately bring Bragg to justice.

Admitting up front, Westerns arenít really my forte with only a few exceptions such as Unforgiven, The Magnificent Seven and The Dollars Trilogy. Appaloosa, based on Robert B. Parkerís novel, is very much an old school Western that, while never breaking new ground in any way, is still a very good film with some great performances. On the other hand, the film is less about gunslingers than it is about the friendship between Cole and Hitch.

Leading the way is director/co-writer/producer/star everyman Ed Harris, a veteran who more often than not and no matter how insignificant of a role, turns in solid performance after solid performance. Whether itís in a so-so direct-to-video flick like Cleaner, in a harrowing role as a man infected with HIV in The Hours or just the figment of the imagination in A Beautiful Mind, Ed Harris is, at least in my mind, kind of an underappreciated actor who just does his job and does it very well.

Alongside Harris is his History of Violence co-star, Viggo Mortensen. In what could have been a thankless role, instead Mortensen feeds off of Harrisí character a little like Newman/Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Hitch character is loyal to his longtime friend but also faces decisions about stepping out of Coleís shadow as each one heads into a different time in their lives.

Finally, in what is truly a ho-hum and thankless role, the lovely Renee Zellweger plays a socialite coming into Appaloosa for some unknown reason and immediately attracts Coleís interest. Zellweger is fine actress and is good for the role, but Iíve felt, even going back to Jerry Maguire, is a limited actress. And Jeremy Irons as the filmís main baddie, while not entirely impressive, certainly has the screen presence to at least hold his own against someone like Ed Harris.

Given Iím not exactly a fan of the Western genre, I can say with little doubt that this is a good movie worthy of checking out. Appaloosa isnít going to wow anyone with visuals (although that is pretty good, just underwhelming), style or story but for the genre it features a great performance from Ed Harris and solid outings from Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Feature Commentary Ė Co-writer, Producer/Director/Actor Ed Harris and Co-writer/Producer Robert Knott sit down for a very dry, though I guess semi-informative, commentary. I can say you can probably skip this one. Knotts steps in about half-way through.

Deleted Scenes (12:03; HD) Ė 6 scenes removed from the film also include an optional commentary with Harris and Knott.

Bringing the Characters of Appaloosa to Life (7:33) is a basic introduction to how the film was made, on a shoe-string budget with interviews with Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons and Renee Zellweger.

Historic Accuracy of Appaloosa (10:21) and The Town of Appaloosa (5:08) goes over the costume and set designs to make sure the film was as accurate as possible for the time period.

Dean Semlerís Return to the Western (5:17) is a profile on the director of photography and how he approached the film; includes more interviews with Ed Harris.

A downloadable digital copy is also included.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

Appaloosa is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 2.40 (original) aspect ratio. Although the picture looks fine, I did notice some major artifacting and loss of detail in some of the facial features. However, colors looked nice as Ed Harris showcases that old West style (i.e. washed out) so it's an OK transfer.

Warner provides a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is very much soft except maybe Jeff Beal's score which makes use of the front speakers, otherwise the majority of the film is dialogue heavy with some gunfire that came off a little flat at times.



.::OVERALL::.

Appaloosa is a quiet, old-style Western featuring a few good performances and interesting enough characters to make it a worthwhile venture. The features arenít that great, in fact the commentary with Harris is actually quite boring and the featurettes couldíve all been combined to make one longer making-of.