My fiirst Reel of the week for 2014 is 2003's OPEN RANGE.
CHARLEY WAITE (Kevin Costner) a weary former gunslinger, hires on as part of a cattle crew run by BOSS SPECKMAN (Robert Duvall).
While driving the cattle to market they stop along the way to let the cattle graze, a common practice called free ranging.
The trouble for BOSS & their crew starts when they decide to camp outside the town of Harmonville which is run by a corrupt lawman, bought & paid for by the richest rancher in town , Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon).
Baxter has a particular hatred for open rangers. He believes land should only be open to those who can pay for it. He's wants his message sent loud & clear. When BOSS sends one of his crew into town for supplies he is beaten and jailed.
Charley, who served in the Civil War, has seen his share of blood and violence and wants to leave that part of his life behind, but what do you do when the blood comes to you?
Denton Baxter is not through, he wants to make an example to the town of what happens when you defy him. He send his henchman to attack BOSS & his crew, killing one & wounding BUTTON(Diego Luna), a boy BOSS took in and has raised like a son.
Trouble and violence have found Charley again, just when he has tentatively opened his heart to SUE BARTON (Annette Bening), the sister of the Doctor who is nursing BUTTON back to health. Can Charley defend Sue, his friends & his livelihood and stay alive?
Harmonville becomes a battleground in that all too familiar fight between good and evil.
Kevin Costner performs in his usual, understated, quiet way. Annette Bening gives a solid performance. I was happy that Kevin Costner's Love interest was an actual grown woman & not a 19 or 20 year old. Robert Duvall, who elevates any movie, is superb. A lovable & wise curmudgeon.
OPEN RANGE isn't a great Western, but it's a very good one. It had all the ingredients a good Western needs. A villain, a conflicted hero, guns, the love of a good woman or man & a straight if at times blurry line between right and wrong.
Westerns have always been close to my heart. William Johnstone , Robert B. Parker, Michael Blakley and Larry McMurtry to name a few. all introduced to me by my Father.
When I sit in a cozy chair and read or watcha big action filled Western, it's like having a conversation with my Father, it's brings him to me and for those moments he is not so very far away.