Click here four and a half stars

on the
Kevin Costner
Kevin Costner returns to the Old West,
guns and Panavision cameras a blazin'

"Open Range"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

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Kevin Costner returns to the American West, a setting which has seen his greatest triumph to date in "Dances With Wolves." Like that Oscar-winning classic, Costner directs as well as stars and once again proves effective in both roles.

Costner, Duvall, Luna

Annette Benning, Dean McDermott

Michael Gambon
Costner plays Charlie Waite, a former gunslinger who earns his keep these days as a free-grazing cattleman, along with his partner, Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall). They are grazing their cattle on what appears to be an uninhabited meadow near a town; one of their hands, an easy-going doofus named Mose (Abraham Benrubi) gets into a fight in town and eventually has to be brought back to the range by his employers. The cattle baron who runs the town, Denton (Michael Gambon) can't abide the thought of free grazers in his territory, and he orders his thugs to take them out, while the law turns a blind eye.

Mose is killed, and a young man (Diego Luna) that the partners have essentially raised, is gravely wounded. Of course, Waite and Spearman can't just let this go by, and they return to town, aided by a comely physician (Annette Benning), to take justice as best they can.

This blends the best of modern Westerns, including the easygoing relationship between Waite and Spearman, which is straight out of "Lonesome Dove" (it's no accident that Duvall starred in both), as well as the division between town and prairie, with the town representing corruption and violence as opposed to the freedom of the range. This is a theme that recurs in Clint Eastwood's best movies, especially "The Unforgiven" and "Pale Rider."

Costner is a better director than he is often given credit for; he has had his share of bombs ("Waterworld," "The Postman") but he knows when to show us a pretty picture and when to show us an ugly one. He juxtaposes the openness of the West with the confines of the town, and makes the hard, relentless life of a free grazer almost desirable. He is also appealing as the lead here, and that is what makes "Open Range" so good. Charlie Waite is a wounded soul, suffering from the demons of his own guilt seeking to forget his past in the vastness that was the West.

Boss, his truest friend, is a rascal, yes, but a fair one. The two have a compelling chemistry.

The gunfights are often at the center of traditional Western, and there is a mighty good one here. You should be warned that the gun battle is extremely loud; those who are sensitive that way may want to think twice before seeing this in a theater. Otherwise, this is a sprawling, wide-open movie with a terrific human story at it's heart, aided and abetted by some fine performances in the lead roles. Even those who are not particularly fond of Westerns, such as my spouse, Da Queen, will give this a rousing thumbs up.

The explosive gunbattle and wide-open vistas make this a natural for the big screen.

See cast, credit and other details about "Open Range" at Internet Movie Data Base.