Newest Reviews:

New Movies -  

The Tunnel


The Tall Man

Mama Africa





Brownian Movement

Last Ride

[Rec]³: Genesis

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Indie Game: The Movie

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Old Movies -

Touki Bouki: The Journey of the Hyena

Drums Along the Mohawk

The Chase

The Heiress

Show People

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry



Miracle Mile

The Great Flamarion

Dark Habits

Archives -

Recap: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 , 2005, 2006, 2007 , 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012

All reviews alphabetically

All reviews by star rating

All reviews by release year


Screening Log



E-mail me




Open Range (Kevin Costner, 2003)


    Open Range, Kevin Costner’s return to the western genre, is a classicist revenge drama that takes its time in becoming one, and is richer as a result. I’d take this movie over In the Bedroom, but that’s no knock on that fine film. Both of them share a script that puts the viewer in a position where it’s impossible to overcome the mixed feelings that come with seeing the “hero” of the piece take justice into his own hands. Costner uses the comfort provided by the familiarity of his chosen genre to put us in a position to better judge the morality at hand. By setting the movie in the Wild West, he’s reminding us of our collective roots and turning these seemingly past actions into relevant commentary about the present. This is the sort of movie that I wish I could find more often at the multiplex. I appreciate its straight-talking, no-nonsense attitude. It’s a tone that’s all too rare in studio pictures, because it can only exist when a movie genuinely has something to say. Perhaps the mild pun of its title is the biggest joke present here. This is no epic, but I like the feeling that the characters are big enough as is, and due to that treatment, they almost feel iconic. They clearly “stand for something”, but the movie is ambivalent about what exactly.


    Costner tries, perhaps a bit too deliberately, to channel John Ford, but since there’s nothing comparable to Ford in the modern film landscape, that’s not much of a complaint. I like the way that he implicates the townsfolk by putting them in the backdrops of his compositions when his good guys clash with the bad guys. Furthermore, there’s something inherently admirable about a film that manages, like this one, to make gun violence feel shocking and unnatural again. The loud, sudden blasts that we hear when shots are fired absolutely rattle the calm, and people fall fast and hard to the ground after taking a hit. The closing coda might seem like overkill to those who find happy endings to be terminally uncool, but to me it clarifies why we were able to the presence of optimism throughout the film, even in its most sticky moral moments. Costner seems convinced that if you do right, things will eventually turn out right, and in this era of glib hipsterism that kind of corn almost feels fresh. One valid complaint is that some of the editing is a bit shoddy. The ellipses caused when Costner fades to black are either a miscalculation or a sign that he neglected to shoot some coverage and some of the slow-motion effects in the climactic shootout are at odds with the retro style of the rest of the picture.


    Otherwise, Open Range is an old-fashioned movie in the best possible ways. A trio of superb performers heads the cast, but every role is well-acted.  Duvall is on gloriously funny autopilot, doing what he does best to great effect. Bening is in the stereotypical “strong female” role, but she that strength feel like an unexpected surprise somehow. Costner underplays constantly, but steps up to the plate to assert himself forcefully from time to time. A fraudulently conceived movie like this summer’s Seabiscuit is as nostalgic as Open Range, but not nearly as conflicted as this movie in its portrayal of the past. Though there’s no doubt that there are a few rarefied subject matters that deserve a reverent treatment, there aren’t any that benefit from dumbing down the past for the audience’s supposed benefit. Thankfully, Open Range doesn’t fall into the trap of the period film, and manages to make its conflicts relevant, and more importantly, immediate.  Because it refuses to simplify the places we’ve been, it can tell us something about the place we currently are.




Jeremy Heilman