Now available on DVD .


Directed by Ed Harris

Written by Robert Knott & Ed Harris (based on the novel by Robert B. Parker)


Viggo Mortensen (Everett Hitch)
Ed Harris (Virgil Cole)
Renee Zellweger (Allison French)
Jeremy Irons (Randall Bragg)
Timothy Spall (Phil Olson)
Lance Henriksen (Ring Shelton)

Photographed by Dean Semler
Edited by Kathryn Himoff
Production Design by Waldemar Kalinowski
Music by Jeff Beal
Produced by Ed Harris, Robert Knott, and Ginger Sledge
A New Line Cinema release

MPAA Rating: R (for some violence and language)
Running time: 1hr 54 min

Genre: Western/crime

Reviewed by Larry Jung

"It's not a revisionist Western," states [Viggo] Mortensen. "It's not a movie about 1882 seen through our eyes as much as it is a picture that's without judgment of people as they seem to have behaved back then. The standards of behavior were very different. In some ways, there were higher standards of politeness and chivalry, but in other ways, people were much more direct and brutal towards each other. Neither Ed nor I, as the central male characters, are trying to justify the violence that comes with our jobs in this story, or to make our characters seem more heroic than they are."

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"The most important thing to Robert Knott and me [Ed Harris] in writing the screenplay was staying true to Robert Parker's intent. Once on set, we strove for truth in each character's individual intentions and their relationships. Though we're in the 1880s, human nature still dictates how people react and treat other people. Issues and conflicts of friendship, loyalty and betrayal are still very relevant today. To see it all come together with such a great team, I really couldn't have asked for more."

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Appaloosa is the name of a scraggy little town in the arid Southwest, a whistle stop on the way to somewhere else. The year is 1882 and Appaloosa has become respectable. It has a City Marshal to enforce the law and protect its citizens. But 1882 in the Southwest is still the wild West where the deadliest shooter still takes all. Unfortunately for the respectable citizens of Appaloosa, City Marshal Bell made the fatal mistake of attempting to arrest two of Randall Bragg’s henchmen who came to town and committed rape. There is a confrontation and Bragg himself shoots Bell and the deputies with Bell. Without Bell, Appaloosa is now a wide-open town. Bragg’s men take whatever they want without paying, including women.

Desperate the leading citizens hire two gunfighters, Virgil Cole and his partner Everett Hitch. The price is turning over the town to Virgil as the new City Marshal. Immediately Cole and Hitch establish "law" by killing three of Bragg’s men. Bragg rides into town when his men don’t return to confront the new lawmen. He brings his whole gang. Pretty much the rest of the movie follows the plot of the Western movie genre; even having Cole, the drifting gunfighter, falling in love and wanting to settle down.

Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Allison French, Cole’s love interest and Viggo Mortensen’s subtle characterization of Everett Hitch save "APPALOOSA" in spite of its predictable storyline. What kept me watching the movie when these two were not on screen was the majestic landscape of southwest New Mexico. Dean Semler, director of photography, was able to convey the power, beauty, and variety of the arid landscape: tabletop mesas, sandstone buttes, high desert chaparral, alpine terrain, and river basins. You wish you could be riding along with Cole and Hitch on their solid-colored bays and sorrels. Added attractions are the historically accurate horse tack of the 1880’s and fire arms used. Everett Hitch’s eight-gauge shotgun is the most noticeable at 50 inches in length. Virgil Cole uses a vintage 1873 Colt .45. One of the bad guys tries to kill Cole with a Spenser repeater. And what would a Western be without lots of lever-action Winchesters?

Though I like Ed Harris, for me, he wasn’t convincing as the character Virgil Cole. I didn’t feel any chemistry between his character and Everett Hitch. Mortensen stole every scene he was in with Harris. Same with Zellweger and Harris. Jeremy Irons did a creditable job with the two dimensional and melodramatic bad guy, Randall Bragg. Because I couldn’t buy Harris as Cole and the tired storyline, I was disappointed in "APPALOOSA." It had its moments, but for me not worth watching a second time. I can only recommend it to diehard Western fans.

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