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Open Range

By Tom Siebert | Posted

The Postman doesn't ring twice. Director/star Kevin Costner's imperfect but solid, old-fashioned Western may actually salvage his career, if amped-up modern audiences can remember how to enjoy a deliberately paced movie that builds to a resounding climax instead of one programmed to go off every 10 minutes or so. There's a little too much of Costner's weakness for telegraphed sentimentality (the slo-mo's got to go); the evil corporate cattlemen plot and iconic Old West characters (professional killer turned cowpoke, wise and plain-spoken veteran, steely frontierswoman, wily old coot, etc.) we've seen before. But we haven't seen it recently, and the genre has been so deconstructed that the familiarity feels refreshing. The narrative is disciplined and the characters have personality, so as Craig Storper's script (from Lauran Paine's novel) builds to a long, exceptionally violent shootout, it becomes uncommonly exciting and suspenseful because we really don't want any of these people to die and, unlike any of the summer's other movies, we're concerned they might. Annette Bening's resolute but empathetic performance as the love interest makes that subplot better than it should be, but the MVP awards go to Robert Duvall, playing the same charismatic cowboy we've watched him nail many times before, and cinematographer James Muro, who captures the lush expanse of Big Sky Country with breathtaking grandeur.

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