Rated R for some violence and language.
Directed By: Ed Harris
Written By: Ed Harris and Robert Knott
Staring: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Spall, Tom Bower, and James Gammon
Life has a way of making the foreseeable that which never happens… and the unforeseeable that which your life becomes. -Everett Hitch
Appaloosa looked the kind of movie that was going to be impossible not to like. A western with the likes of Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, and Renee Zellweger? This was not a long shot. None of these actors really make bad movies or play roles that aren’t interesting. Appaloosa seemed like it was going to be amazing, but reality shook with cliche moments and a snooze-fest of scenes. There was nothing special or tragically romantic about it. It seemed without any heart. You could feel what Ed Harris was going for, something epic and important but it was incredibly dull instead.
The sheriff and his deputy in the old west are faced with a hardened criminal who not only manages to evade being obtained by the law, even after he commits murder. When he is finally brought in on his charges by two local officers he manages to evade imprisonment. Defying the law and snubbing it in the most disrespectful way possible and continuing his carnage of violence and mayhem. The lawmen must defy their own laws if they are to take the criminal down, but won’t that make them criminals as well?
The saving grace of the film, that kept me from falling asleep was Viggo Mortensen. He gave his character something a little extra that the rest of the cast never really captured. Ed Harris was solid in his role as the hardened lawman, unafraid of anything, and though he showed his human side when it came to Renee Zellweger it was somehow a predictable beat that seemed too obvious. It was essential for the story to end as it did, but Viggo’s character Everett was complex and human, and while seeming more vulnerable was the perfect partner for Harris’s stoic attitude. Zellweger’s character felt forced and awkward, really no depth or interest to who she was, but more or less utilized as a pawn to push to plot points forward. I may not love Zellweger, but she is a lot more talented then her character allowed her to be. Her character became a source of annoyance.
Jeremy Irons as the archenemies bad guy made for a great villain, but even though it initially showed itself as a provocative source of conflict, drizzled into a mass of mundane moments that were not at all compelling. Some of the dialogue and the way events unraveled didn’t flow well together, making it difficult to connect with the story and with the characters. The pacing was all off and much felt plenty wrong.
There was nothing of a specific nature that separated Appaloosa from other Westerns. Even though Viggo had a few moments of stardom it wasn’t anything in comparison to Russell Crowe’s riveting performance in 3:10 To Yuma last year. The pacing and originality was vacant and made for a film that was far from anything astounding. I may have been cool to watch Ed Harris and Viggo be bad asses, but the good pretty much ended there. Appaloosa was an underwhelming movie that seemed to have potential but never fulfilled any of it.