Appaloosa…

by Jim Caryl

I went to see the film Appaloosa last night, starring Ed Harris, Viggo Mortenssen, Jeremy Irons, Tim Spall and Renée Zellweger; directed by Ed Harris.

Whilst many will dismiss it as yet another Western, I will add it to one of the many recent Westerns (including 3-10 to Yuma and Cold Mountain) that demonstrate how the genre is benefiting from improved photography, timing and attention to detail in both language and physical accoutrements. Appaloosa makes fantastic use of photography, costume and lighting. The pace of the story was excellent, permitting time for good character development, particularly in the form of the friendship between Harris’s and Mortensen’s eminently likeable characters as gunmen and law men.

Harris and Mortensen have great on screen chemistry, and Jeremy Irons plays the suitably self-righteous “baddy” very well; I was however less impressed by Zelleger’s acting role in the film. Zellweger has demonstrated her ability to perform in the genre (c.f. Cold Mountain), yet I’m beginning to wonder if she can deploy any speech patterns or facial expressions that aren’t Bridgit Jones come Beatrix Potter. Perhaps she should watch herself in Cold Mountain and remind herself of the suitably sour and beguiling face she managed there in portrayal of her character, Ruby.

Appaloosa is, by all accounts, a faithfully rendition of the book by Robert B. Parker, about a town called Appaloosa (after the Nez Perce American Indian breed of horse). I’ve never read any western fiction strangely enough, favouring non-fictional accounts of the history of the American west instead, thus I haven’t read the book; I have ordered Parker’s sequel to Appaloosa, Resolution, which sees the roles of Everett Hitch (Mortenssen’s character) and Virgil Cole (Harris’s haracter) reversed in a town called Resolution; we’ll see how it goes.

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