Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are the new marshal and deputy facing down a posse of bad guys in Appaloosa, New Mexico, circa 1882, in Harriss latest directorial effort. Appaloosa has the shifting boundaries of friendship and love on its mind, but this isnt a movie likely to raise comparisons to the tortured revisionism of Unforgiven, or even to last years hyperactive shoot-em-up, 3:10 to Yumaand thats surely fine by Harris. He and his collaborators are playing it straight with a timeless male fantasyhorse, hat, six-shootera traditional approach that will please moviegoers like my dad and yours: men who walked out of No Country for Old Men puzzled, feeling like theyd been cheated out of a climactic gun battle between lawman and villain. Harris keeps the shootouts comingtheres even a run-in with some canny Indiansbut in this efficient western, there are no close-ups of shifting eyes and nervous trigger-fingers, just sudden, over-in-a-blink violence. Truth be told, it probably wouldnt have killed the director to belabor the tension a little more, but hey, real men dont drag things out.
Nov. 11-13, 2008