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Overall Rating

Awesome: 32.8%
Worth A Look46.4%
Average: 6.4%
Pretty Bad: 11.2%
Total Crap: 3.2%

8 reviews, 77 user ratings

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Open Range
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by Scott Weinberg

"Costner's only as good as his last movie, and this one's damn solid."
4 stars

Following Kevin Costner's most recent directorial effort (1997's "The Postman"), moviegoers could surely be forgiven their lack of anticipation for the actor/director's newest project. This is, after all, a guy behind (and in front of) recent flicks like "Dragonfly", "3,000 Miles to Graceland" and "Message in a Bottle". But one thing Costner has proven over the years is a remarkable sense of resiliency.

In between several late-90's speed bumps, he impressed many with his participation in movies like Tin Cup and 13 Days. Add to that a body of work that includes titles like Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and Silverado. Put another way: any actor/director who can run the gamut from Waterworld to Dance with Wolves is quite simply not an easy guy to bet on (or against).

So when you spend a few minutes perusing the Weekend section and Costner's name catches your eye, it's best to think of that Kevin Costner that you DO like and not that other one who pops up every so often. Because if you do, you'll end up seeing Open Range - and it's a pretty damn good movie. Kevin's now done three baseball movies and four westerns; in these genres he's batting a thousand. (Yes I liked Wyatt Earp; there's a darn good 2-hour movie nestled within its 190 minutes.) Love the guy or loathe him, Costner (when working on a movie "hands-on") has clearly evolved over the years, and if Open Range isn't the best film he's directed comes pretty darn close. (Yeah go on and hate me; Dances with Wolves is overrated in my book.)

What Costner's learned in the case of Open Range is this: take a step back, assume a supporting stance, let your screenplay tell your story, and find one phenomenal actor to fill the screen. And while the story offered in Open Range may not be the newest Western conceit under the sun, Costner approaches the project with an earnest nobility that's quite impressive - mainly because "earnest nobility" can often become "unintentional hilarity" when coaxed too adamantly, but also because the guy presents a warm, fluid and frankly beautiful film.

Open Range is basically a 2-cowboy character study, sort of a milder take on Clint Eastwood's brilliant Unforgiven, that moves at an intentionally (and entertainingly) deliberate pace while supplanting kinetic action sequences for moments of thoughtful discussion between endearing characters. Though Costner may seem to be the Big Star on Display here, Open Range clearly belongs to longtime Acting God Robert Duvall. That Costner the director opted to give Duvall top billing (and nearly all of the film's best lines) is a reliable indicator. Not that the opinions of a faceless mass (i.e. "The Academy") amount to all that much, but I suspect Duvall will be earning a seventh Oscar nomination for his work here. And damn if the old rascal wouldn't deserve it.

Boss (Duvall) and Charley (Costner) are longtime partners in the 'freegrazing' business, and as the 1800s draw to a close these two cowboys find their profession in a precarious state. Out on the open plain with two young apprentices, a few horses and a whole lot of cows, Boss and Charley seem quite content with their lot in life. As is nearly always the case in a Western (even the ones aiming for something more than "a lotta shootouts"), there's a nearby town full of nefarious lawmen and evil cattle barons. That our two heroes cross paths with these villainous types is certainly no surprise; the thoughtful restraint with which Costner tells his tale surely is.

Yes, there IS a healthy dose of gunslinging action to be found in Open Range. Actually, the big shootout at film's end is one of the finest sequences I've seen in a long time...but if non-stop carnage and pithy one-liners are what you're looking for I suggest you look elsewhere. Open Range is about not much more than the end of the Old West as seen through the eyes of two particularly introspective and decent cowpokes. And I mean that as high praise.

Certainly there are a few spots in which Costner pushes the "aw shucks" factor a bit too far; an ongoing obsession with the importance of canine friendship skirts dangerously close to Sappy-Land, and a late-in-the-game Romance Angle seems squeezed a bit too ardently. But by the time those few minor speed bumps show up, Open Range has already earned more than enough respect. 85% honest sincerity is always worth 15% of near-schmaltz.

So I say Good Job to Kevin Costner. As one who's loudly berated the guy in the past for churning out some painfully bad movies, I'm thrilled to see the guy prove my expectations wrong this time out. Open Range is a welcome return to form for a filmmaker who's weathered more than his fair share of big-time blunders. If a film like The Postman represents a filmmaker at his most self-adoring and insular, then Open Range displays a true evolution. By letting his movie (and his star) take center stage and assuming the moody sidekick role for himself, perhaps Costner was able to approach this project from a previously unfamiliar perspective; that of a filmmaker and not a movie star.

Old complainers like myself will find themselves commenting appreciatively that "Open Range" is a throwback to the old-time Westerns that don't come around too often anymore. Anyone with a soft spot for mild-mannered and stately Horse Operas should surely find much to appreciate in this one.

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originally posted: 08/15/03 15:01:45
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good western 4 stars
1/16/12 John Great scenery and story, overlong gunfight. 5 stars
2/20/11 Ark Damned decent, didn't suck like most of Costner's other crap! 4 stars
5/05/09 the dork knight There Will Be Duvall. 5 stars
12/06/08 Michelle Loved it..thats for sticking with it thorough the battles Kevin! 4 stars
11/23/08 Goodman not the epic that Kevin hoped for 3 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
6/13/07 al smith amazing the best gun fight ever.costner is a great director 5 stars
2/23/07 Weblynx I loved this , great actors 5 stars
2/13/07 R.W.Welch Above average oater, despite overblown gunfight. Duvall is aces. 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley The Untouchables replanted to the old west. That is a good thing by the way. 5 stars
3/12/06 daveyt good cinematography, looked and felt real. Duvall excellent... 4 stars
1/08/06 Daveman Engaging drama, beautiful photography, unusually good performance from Costner of all peopl 4 stars
11/12/05 Danielle Cordova Open Range seems to be a modern day western. Costner did a trimendous job. I watch 24/7 5 stars
10/16/05 Quigley the end gunfight was way overrated and not cool. costner was lame, but duvall redeemed all. 3 stars
10/08/05 Jonathon Holmes one of the 10 best films of the year 5 stars
9/25/05 David Jones Slow in the right way. 4 stars
9/09/05 Tom Burns An enjoyable western. 4 stars
8/26/05 Michael Good Movie 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Poorly written disappointment with lots of bullshit backstory dialogue. Best gunfight ever 3 stars
6/03/05 Steve Newman too slow BUT the scenery is breathtaking. I did enjoy it - cut off 30 mins please 3 stars
2/05/05 Carolyn Rathburn Loved it truistic for the time. 5 stars
1/05/05 Lord Jiggy Classic in so many ways...just a few missteps, but the antidote to swill like Van Helsing 5 stars
11/28/04 smilesx the worst video i've seen since red dawn. 1 stars
10/27/04 Carolyn Metz I really enjoy seeing this on the big screen. Love the scenery. 4 stars
9/11/04 Edler A great western. And I really am not a fan of Costner. 5 stars
8/24/04 Stevie Y. A beautiful movie in every respect. A dead-on story line. A sweet, heartwarming romance. 5 stars
8/15/04 dfdea 4 stars for Western Appreciators, 3 stars for the average filmgoer 4 stars
8/07/04 Mike Great movie. 4 stars
8/01/04 DJ Great movie!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
7/17/04 axe westerns are silly no longer, thanks to this one 5 stars
7/11/04 Ingo Unique tone, great actors, albeit a little too long. 4 stars
3/26/04 rojo Best Western since Unforgiven. 5 stars
3/21/04 bruce miller good western...predictable 4 stars
3/21/04 Linda Ellis Great movie! 5 stars
3/18/04 rachel burke it was a little draen out 3 stars
3/15/04 Lord Jiggy Curse me for a moral failure, I really enjoyed this film. It built to an end. 5 stars
3/13/04 Chief Dan George the Third Fuck this. "The Oulaw Josey Wales = The Greatest Goddamn Western ever made" 2 stars
2/28/04 william pathetically inane....clipping my toes are more photogenic and interesting...bad tv series 1 stars
2/24/04 LMW Really wanted to like it but couldn't. . .Mind numbing tedium. . . 1 stars
2/22/04 CARRIE good movie...the humorous parts helped alot 5 stars
2/17/04 jj an outstanding western with excellent sound effects!!! 5 stars
2/16/04 Jack Duvall's performance is fantastic. The script is somewhat ponderous. 4 stars
1/26/04 twodogs Good acting, Good gunfight scene,predictable ending 4 stars
1/22/04 Abe Giesbrecht Honest, and refreshing 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Either u love it, in which you look over its flaws, or it leaves u cold. 4 stars
1/20/04 Walter Lorenz Boring, flat and unengaging from beginning to end. Seen it all and better. 3 stars
11/28/03 john a great western with a honest story - the shootout alone is worth the price of admission 5 stars
11/06/03 Green Beret Packers Costner & Bening break new ground; Duvall his usual solid self. 4 stars
10/08/03 Erik Van Sant At last, Costner proves the only way he doesn't suck is when he does a period piece. 5 stars
9/25/03 malcolm 4-star, despite Costner, i got one word for u, KC: inflection! 4 stars
9/19/03 April Malan Wonderful, exciting, great! I loved it, one of the best of the summer. 5 stars
9/18/03 DICK Can't touch Lonsome Dove, but it as real as a western gets 5 stars
9/17/03 William H. Collins Despite the slow start,the movie is well worth the wait. 4 stars
9/11/03 Buck A damn solid Kevin Costner movie. Needs some trimming, but gorgeous and refreshingly simple 4 stars
9/08/03 leper3 meditative, elegaic and powerful 5 stars
9/04/03 KingNeutron Pretty good overall, gun effects were GOOD but film needed more EDITING espec in beginning 4 stars
9/02/03 geo. c. flora beautiful and outstanding 5 stars
9/01/03 Suzanne Paul Zimmerman is an idiot 5 stars
8/26/03 Benita Hume really enjoyed it 4 stars
8/26/03 jean a beautifully filmed,very well -acted movie with many unforgettable scenes 5 stars
8/25/03 Ahnold Took too long getting to action. But still worth look (matinee price only) 4 stars
8/25/03 Desperado Good acting by Duvall and Costner make this movie a cant miss 5 stars
8/24/03 Michael hall I'd clean the cow shit off my boots with the DVD 1 stars
8/24/03 K R Stilwell Loved it! 5 stars
8/23/03 Joe Beautifully done. It's about time Costner had a hit. 4 stars
8/21/03 Jack Bourbon Costner isn't so bad sometimes 4 stars
8/18/03 J. Brande Costner is back with a vengeance with a beautiful, riveting film. Tremendous Duvall 5 stars
8/18/03 Belinda Adams Robert Duvall is brilliant. OSCAR-worthy 5 stars
8/17/03 Ethan Costner in top form! 5 stars
8/17/03 Reese Witherspoon suckzzzzz Good, but loses it in final half hour (and the movie is too long anyway) 3 stars
8/17/03 John Zelk Duvall is incredible. He deserves a BEST ACTOR nomination OSCAR. 5 stars
8/16/03 FlaFan Terrific movie 5 stars
8/16/03 Dr. Bitterpants IGNORE Paul "shorter is better" Zimmerman's pallid review -- this is a great film! 4 stars
8/15/03 James Mathews Costner is back riding high in the saddle. Easily movie of the summer and year to date! 5 stars
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  15-Aug-2003 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jan-2004



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