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Rated 3.02 stars
by 2775 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Costner's Last Chance
by Frank Wilkins

A  sprawling widescreen revival of the Hollywood Western,  Open Range is also one of Kevin Costner's last chances at redemption. Following a string of such stinkers as The Postman, Message in a Bottle, and 3000 Miles to Graceland, this film gives Costner the opportunity to regain his Hollywood street cred. And he recaptures it in a big way. Not so much for his acting as for his skillful direction -- and for putting Craig Storper's screenplay of Lauran Paine's novel on the big screen in such a gracefully moving manner.

In the latter years of the eighteenth century, freegrazing, though highly frowned upon, was still considered a legal practice. Land in America was mostly unowned and free to use. So rather than set up a farm or ranch for cattle, freegrazers would lead a nomadic lifestyle, wandering the countryside with their herd, and only occasionally stopping in a town to trade.

Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) are rugged freegrazers, plying their craft in the beautiful green valleys at the foothills of the Rockies in the upper Montana territories. Along for the ride are ranch hands Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna). However, their chosen lifestyle is being challenged by land baron Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) who sees freegrazers as nothing more than varmints or trespassers. Baxter's disapproval of our freegrazing cowboys sets in motion the conflict of the story that will eventually lead to the movie's final climax, a gunfight in the streets of the town, the likes of which Hollywood has never before produced.

The death of Mose and severe wounding of Button at the hands of Baxter's hooded henchmen make it clearly evident that Boss and Charley are not welcome and would be best moving on. But Boss doesn't take too kindly to threats and angry commands. He bristles, "Cows is one thing, but one man tellin' another man where he can't go in this country is another."

Boss and Charley take Button to the local town doctor where Charley meets who they initially believe is the doctor's wife, Sue (Annette Bening). Kudos to Kostner's choice of Bening to play the attractive female love interest. Her unretouched face, obviously still a virgin to the plastic surgeon's scalpel, lends a rugged authenticity to her character, yet she is still as beautiful as ever. When Charley later discovers that Sue is the doctor's sister and not his wife, the wheels of romance are set in motion.

At the heart of Open Range, which emerges as a grand cinematic experience, is a great ensemble of veteran actors. Robert Duvall is outstanding as Boss, a man who understands the difference between violence and honor. Duvall's delivery and mannerisms come directly from the trail. Costner holds his own as Charley, a man who won't be complete until he brings the woman he loves into his life. Duvall and Costner fit together like a well-worn pair of cowboy boots;  however, both are upstaged by scene-stealing Michael Jeter as Percy, the owner of the town's livery stable. With only limited screen time, Percy becomes one of the film's few characters who openly join Boss and Charley on their crusade. He's also one of the few town inhabitants we truly care for.

There's a lot for everyone to love in this movie. Although the love story ending gets a bit too sappy and most of the dialogue seems a bit amateurish, Open Range puts itself in the hunt for Academy recognition -- but more importantly, Costner makes himself once again a significant force in Hollywood.

(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "R" for violence.)

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