Open Range | Chicago Reader

Open Range

Vengeance may be the most overrated and overused theme in movies, but director Kevin Costner makes effective use of it in this classic western tale in which a feud between “freegrazers” (Costner, Robert Duvall, Diego Luna, Abraham Benrubi) and an evil rancher (Michael Gambon) culminates in an extended gunfight. Costner and screenwriter Craig Storper wisely let Duvall take charge most of the time, so that the movie begins to falter only after Costner takes over as lead. Curiously, for a film that aspires to classical storytelling, the principal model appears to be Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller—less for the narrative style than for the look of the town (smoky, makeshift, muddy) and some of its inhabitants. Storper is pretty good at playing with and against certain western cliches in his treatment of the good guys (including Annette Bening's character), but resorts to pure cliche when it comes to the villains (e.g., Gambon and James Russo). As in McCabe, the handsome 'Scope landscapes were filmed in Canada. 135 min.

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