Thursday, March 31, 2016

Silver Screen Influences: Open Range

Open Range isn't just one of my favorite westerns, it's one of my all-time favorite movies. From its breathtaking scenery to Michael Kamen's beautiful score, Open Range has the feel of a classic epic with the intimacy of a micro-budget drama and the intense violence of a war documentary. It's obvious that Kevin Costner poured everything he had (he even shot a portion while suffering from appendicitis) into what I consider to be his best film and I'm sill amazed it doesn't get the recognition it deserves.

Robert Duvall is perfect as Boss Spearman—a character not unlike Lonesome Dove's “Gus”—and an ideal complement to Costner's ex-gunfighter, Charley Waite. Charley is second only to Eastwood's William Munny from Unforgiven when it comes to harboring a pent-up urge to un-holster his gun and unleash some extremely satisfying vengeance. Costner's character does have more depth than Eastwood's, especially when it comes to how he acts toward Annette Bening's Sue Barlow. Their relationship is tentative and sweet and has a childlike innocence that perfectly contrasts Costner's hidden violent tendencies. Bening is an extremely strong female character (do you see a pattern forming in the films I dig?) who does something at the climax of the movie's final gunfight that I wish more characters would do.

Speaking of the final gunfight—damn! It's the most brutal and realistic sequence from any western I've seen and absolutely on par with the bullet-ridden bank robbery in Michael Mann's masterpiece, Heat. Much like the final confrontation in Unforgiven, we finally get to see what Charlie Waite is capable of as he and Boss Spearman take on an evil ranch owner and his gun hands. I've stolen a lot from Open Range but one of the things that’s been on my list that I finally used in The Gunfighter Cincinnati was the free-the-hostage-by-sooting-the-bad-guy-in-the-face move Costner employs during the climax of this film. At one point he's so angry it looks like he's punching the bullets from his Colt into the bad guy. Did I mention it was brutal?

Open Range is perfect. I've already stolen so many ideas and nuances from it but I'm not about to stop. If you haven't seen Open Range, drop what you are doing, buy it and watch it. I promise it will make your day.

Open Range (2003)
Director: Kevin Costner
Writers: Lauran Paine, Craig Storper
Stars: Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening. 

1 comment:

  1. One of my all time favorites. I love the scene in the bar when Costner is talking to the local teamster about the rancher who runs the town.

    "It's a shame what this town has come to," the man says.
    "You could do something about about it," Costner replies as he pours himself another shot of whiskey.
    "What? We're freighters," the man retorts. "Ralph here is a shop keeper."
    Costner looks at them and says, "You're men, ain't ya?"

    That says it all to me. I hope my stories can inspire people that way. Open Range proves that you don't need a massive budget or crazy special effects to tell a great story.