Thursday, January 8, 2009

Appaloosa ...1st time writing, 2nd time directing - whaddya expect?

I really wish I could find something nice to say about this movie, honestly, I do. The cast includes several actors whose work over the years I've admired and respected, and while not being the lowest career point for either of them (Jeremy Irons still has to beat his 'Dragons and Dungeons' lo-score), I don't think any of them should be especially proud of their participation in this, shall we say, disappointing feature. This is especially true for Renee Zellweger whose character is remarkably unconvincing and for Ed Harris who should get a restriction order to prevent him from getting behind the camera.

Of course, the Western genre is quite depleted by definition, you either stick to the cliches or it's not a Western at all, but there is still room for some originality and creativity, as proven by '3:10 to Yuma', 'Unforgiven' or even the not-exactly-western 'There will be blood'. However, 'Appaloosa' doesn't even come close to being original and creative, regardless of the efforts of its all-stars dream cast, the occasional humour lines and the wonderful scenery. The plot jerks at uneven steps (what the hell was the scene with the Indians supposed to mean and why did it take like half an hour?), often grinding to halt, and the Allison French character is completely ridiculous with the sexist portrayal of her immediate and unconditional attraction to the Alpha male in the pack. The story is straightforward, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a Western, the plot twist doesn't come as much of a surprise and all in all it would be a good, solid mainstream movie if it managed to somehow capture the attention of the audience and make them care about the characters instead of just looking at their watches and secretly wishing to finally see the lone rider disappear into the sunset (whoa, what a surprise - he did!).

Seems like the writers' strike from last year has some deeper going consequences - recently there's been an influx of badly written movies and one can only speculate this is a result of trying to introduce first time writers instead of the experienced ones. All the more too sad seeing a promising movie like 'Appaloosa' flopping mostly thanks to this tendency and wasting performances by actors such as Timothy Spall, Viggo Mortensen and Lance Henriksen, whom I was glad to see return in the spotlight.
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