Saturday, October 4, 2008

Appaloosa Review

Let's put this right out there. Appaloosa is one of the most inept, miscalculated, incompetent films I've seen a long, long time. This is a western bereft of any depth, character, intelligent dialogue, suspense or drama. It involves a simplistic premise and builds upon it to where the filmmakers must have assumed it would derive some meaning. How unfortunate.

Here we have some talented actors who must have read a very different script than the one presented on screen. It involves two lawmen, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, arriving to the town of Appaloosa to protect it from a group of bandits run by Randall Bragg. Oh good, you might think, a Seven Samurai-style premise, performed by three solid actors (Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Jeremy Irons). Appaloosa unfortunately gives them nothing interesting to do and relies on substandard, often laughable cliches. Ed Harris seems like a wise enough guy, but he has really missed the mark on this one. He fails to recognize that stoicism does not a poignant character make. The first thing they teach you in screenwriting class is that characters in films have outward conflicts and inward conflicts. The outward conflicts are the actions presented on screen (Marshall wants to kill bandit, boy is in love with girl he can't have) and the inward conflicts are the emotional, psychological issues one must deal with in the process (Marshall tries to remain noble despite the duty he has to murder). Appaloosa gives its characters only the basest motives and makes no attempt to give insight into who these people are or why they want to do what they do.

I know, this image almost makes it look interesting.

Conflicts in this film are resolved so easily one wonders why they were included in the story to begin with. Here's an example (Spoiler Warning):

The "lovely" widow Allison French comes into town and is immediately smitten with Marshall Cole. Nobody can really say why, although Cole immediately drops his charmless demeanor and giggles like a schoolgirl around French. They fall in love and decide to build a house in town, about 12 hours after meeting. When Hitch goes to visit the house, Allison starts to kiss him uncomfortably. Alright, one thinks, now we have a love triangle that will present some real troublesome issues for these characters. Nope. Hitch pushes Allison away, says "we're both with Cole" and that's essentially the end of that conflict. No anger from Cole to Hitch, no insecurity as to the widow French's ambitions. That's pretty much it. Appaloosa is full of conflicts that go absolutely nowhere.

Let's move on to the dialogue. It's laughable. At times I actually thought it was a joke. In one scene Cole tells Hitch that the reason he's not as good a gunfighter as him is that he has feelings. "Feelings get you killed," he says. End of scene. Thanks, but that doesn't do it for me. Try not hitting me over the head with it. Or, if you do plan on hitting me over the head, do something with it for god's sake. Don't just end the scene and meander into the next inane love scene.

The action. There isn't any. A couple of gun shots that you wish were aimed at Allison French's head. The female lead is really thankless, even for Zellweger. All you have to do is watch a few scenes with Alma Garret from Deadwood to realize that women actually have more to do in the old west than play Campdown Races on the piano and scream after their man while running through endless sandstorms.

How in the world did Appaloosa get 75% on Rotten Tomatoes? See the movie and then read some of these reviews. You'll think you've watched a different film. Everyone's lost their minds. I'm sorry, but Viggo, Ed, Jeremy: I love you guys, but this is the worst film I've seen all year.


Jenny Beans said...

How disappointing. I was looking forward to another movie starring Ed and Viggo, but I guess I'll pass!!

Jonathan said...

I know. I was very disappointed, too. Although, perhaps you should see it. Several critics seem to have found it amusing, and perhaps my friends and I were all in horrible moods!

I was just surprised that so many talented actors could put together a film with no chemistry, suspense or excitement.

Jenny Beans said...

Maybe I'll wait until it comes out on DVD or catch it on cable instead. Thanks again for the great review!

Ray Manukay said...

Very disappointing...I was really looking forward to watching this.

DVD maybe?

Susan said...

Thanks for saving me the money--given the cast, I definitely would have gone to see this in the theater...but now I'll wait until its available on demand.

Anonymous said...

you suck. me go see funny cowboys movie. die you.

Anonymous said...

you suck. me go see funny cowboys movie. die you.