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 Harris's latest directorial effort. Appaloosa has the shifting boundaries of friendship and love on its mind, but this isn't a movie likely to raise comparisons to the tortured revisionism of Unforgiven, or even to last year's hyperactive shoot-'em-up, 3:10 to Yuma--and that's surely fine by Harris. He and his collaborators are playing it straight with a timeless male fantasy--horse, hat, six-shooter--a traditional approach that will please moviegoers like my dad and yours: men who walked out of No Country for Old Men puzzled, feeling like they'd been cheated out of a climactic gun battle between lawman and villain. Harris keeps the shootouts coming--there's even a run-in with some canny Indians--but 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 wouldn't have killed the director to belabor the tension a little more, but hey, real men don't drag things out.
Sun., Dec. 28, 2, 4:25, 7 & 9:25 p.m.; Mon., Dec. 29, 7 & 9:25 p.m.; Tue., Dec. 30, 7 & 9:25 p.m., 2008