Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Open Range, 09-01-03

On Labor Day, we went to the South Shore cinema to see the new Western Movie, "Open Range," starring Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner. Set in the 1880's this covers one of the 'range war' periods, when there were tensions between established ranchers and 'free grazers'--entrepeneurs who owned cattle but no land, and lived a nomadic existence grazing the cattle on the 'open range'--theoretically publicly owned land, free for all, but in practice frequently and ferociously claimed by the homesteaders. This conflict continues in our Western states to this day in a slightly altered form. I found the conflict interesting, since I had been aware of the "cattle vs. sheep" wars, and the "ranchers vs. sodbusters (farmers)" battles, but this internicene stife between cattlemen of different stripes was new to me. Duvall and Costner are Boss and ramrod of a small 'outfit' that falls foul of a rancher's territorial ambitions. It is also interesting that the big rancher (played by Michael Gambon)is an Irish immigrant, his desire for land and the control of it warped by poverty in the old country into greed and lust for power. The story deals with some of the Western classical themes of the "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do" types with sensitivity. Costner, playing one of the (apparent legion) men who had been guerrila raiders during the Civil War insists that he doesn't mind killing, but is haunted by the memories of his deeds. The inevitable climactic gun battle is well done and historical in things such as the ultimate shootout between Duvall and Gambon occurring at literal arm's length. Annette Benning has a very good role as the lonely aging sister of the town doctor, and if she HAS to run into the middle of the gunfight, at least it is because she is in pursuit of her patient, the youngest of Duvall's men, who has gotten out of bed to join the battle.

Very well done and enjoyable of type.
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