Movie review: “Appaloosa”

When I was growing up, I loved watching Westerns. I was mad about horses, so that’s probably why; but I always hated it when the horses got hurt or shot or killed, and that did happen frequently in Westerns. It didn’t bother me so much when the goodies and the baddies shot each other up – I just didn’t want the horses to get hurt in the process!

But the good ol’ fashioned big-screen Western, whose names I’ve forgotten, as well as all the TV Westerns, like Bonanza, Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger, seem to have gone out of fashion.

So I was pleased to see the cover of Appaloosa (2008), because it was clearly a Western. It is based on a novel set in the American Old West, written by Robert B. Parker in 2005.

In terms of the plot, there is a rancher by the name of Randall Bragg (played by the otherwise very likeable Jeremy Irons, who looked the part of the ruthless killer here), who is scheming to take over a small western town called Appaloosa with his henchmen. They predictably make life difficult for the good, respectable townsfolk.

When two lawmen, Virgil Cole (a laconic Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (similarly unflappable Viggo Mortensen), ride into the town, the locals regard them as their saviours and hire them to protect the town. Around the same time, a pretty young woman, Allie French (Renée Zellweger) arrives in Appaloosa, though I’m not quite sure what her motivation is. Both men are clearly smitten by her, but also don’t want to fight over her, because they have been best friends for many years. It’s amazing what turmoil a pretty woman can cause!

I liked the relationship between Virgil and Everett – occasionally there was some witty repartee to lighten things up, but the rest of the time, they seemed content just to hang out together without saying much, communicating almost telepathically. Probably as a result of their interpersonal dynamic, the movie had an easy-going pace, except for the inevitable shoot-outs, which made a much-appreciated change from all the super-charged high-octane high-explosive action movies we’d been watching.

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You can see the trailer here, as well as an interview by Chuck the MovieGuy with Viggo Mortensen, who stars in the movie. For a detailed synopsis, see the IMDB and the Wikipedia, and for a good review, see Meg Wood’s blog review.

4 thoughts on “Movie review: “Appaloosa”

  1. I read Parker’s novel Appaloosa a couple of weeks ago. He wrote three with Cole and Hitch. I must say they were the best reads I’ve had in a while. Now I have to see the movie. Great review.

    • Thanks, Steve! I read somewhere else that, even though the movie was good, it did not do justice to the quality or depth of the original books, so I am going to try to find them in the local library! 🙂

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