Film Reviews


By • Aug 15th, 2005 •

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Buena Vista Pictures / Touchstone Pictures in association with Cobalt Media Group present a Tig production
Running time — 138 minutes / MPAA rating: R

“Free-grazer” Boss Spearmana (Robert Duvall), along with his top killer cowboy Charley Waite (Kevin Costner), graze their cattle through land Irish immigrant rancher Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) feels entitled to. Baxter runs Harmonville and “free-grazers,” while legal, are not welcomed with open arms. Boss also has two young cowboys along: big, gentle Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Mexican innocent Button (Diego Luna). Accompanying them is a white dog who lovingly looks out over the pristine landscape. The director, Kevin Costner, doesn’t shy away from telegraphing the dog’s importance to the slow, unfolding story.

Mose gets beat up in town by Baxter’s men, (and is later killed by them), so Boss and Charley seek revenge. Mose is in the jail run by Sheriff Poole (James Russo), Baxter’s handpicked enforcer. Seems everyone in town is frightened of Baxter, including stable owner (Micheal Jeter), the town doctor, Dr. Barlow (Dean McDermott), and his spinster sister Sue (Annette Bening). Terrified of Baxter, all of them (and nearly everyone in town) quickly help Boss and Charley.

Charley doesn’t have a pot to pee in. He’s a free-spirited, unsentimental killer without a cow or a patch of land of his own. Yet, when he falls for Sue, she apologizes to him for not being younger! Sue has a house and lives with the town’s only doctor! She assists her brother in healing the wounded and caring for the sick. I would say she’s a catch for a man like Charley.

The story, incredible as it seems, then hinges on a drowning puppy.

As I have said many times before, actors should not direct themselves. Costner is heavy-handed with the mystical Western imagery. Because focusing on himself and his mature good looks would be egoistical, its Duvall that gets to showcase charm, an easygoing manner, and stand front and center. Costner does get to do most of the hot bloodied killing! Poor Diego Luna (I liked Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN so much I watched it last week in a Copacabana hotel in Rio De Janeiro in Portuguese) has to play the stupid Mexican kid.

The cinematography, by my dear and talented friend Jimmy Muro, is gorgeous and every scene is dreamily framed. The winsome sentimentality of Costner suddenly turns nasty as a spectacular gunfight erupts between Baxter’s men and Boss and Charley. Who knew Costner had it in him? Brilliantly executed and fearsome, Costner shows grit and a tinge of brutal sadism. But it comes too late. We lounge around the prairie much too long. Costner, recalling his famous BULL DURHAM “long, slow kisses” speech, is generously laden with a romantic notion no vicious killer would embrace. We leave the theater remembering the killing, hoping to forget the kiss.

Director: Kevin Costner
Screenwriter: Craig Storper
Based on the novel by: Lauran Paine
Producers: David Valdes, Kevin Costner, Jake Eberts
Executive producers: Armyan Bernstein, Craig Storper
Director of photography: James Muro
Production designer: Gae Buckley
Music: Michael Kamen
Costume designer: John Bloomfield
Editors: Michael J. Duthie, Miklos Wright

Boss Spearman: Robert Duvall
Charley Waite: Kevin Costner
Sue Barlow: Annette Bening
Denton Baxter: Michael Gambon
Percy: Michael Jeter
Mose: Abraham Benrubi
Button: Diego Luna
Sheriff Poole: James Russo

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