Release Date: September 19, 2008
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Limited release

Movie of the Day for Thursday, August 21, 2008
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Viggo actually dislikes horses despite having been in numerous films with them.

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34/196 Max Braden A lot of this story bears a close resemblance to Tombstone. My major problem with it is the villain's inexplicable abandonment of his character midway through.

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Randall Bragg, played by Jeremy Irons, is a wealthy rancher who has taken control over a small, non-descript town called Appaloosa in an unidentified part of the American west. He rules the town after killing its marshal and his deputy and simply takes whatever he pleases, be it property or even worse, people. The small town quietly contacts two former gunmen and offers them the recently vacated position of marshal and deputy. Virgil Cole, played by Ed Harris, is the new marshal and Everett Hitch, played by Viggo Mortensen, is his deputy. Both men understand the lure of easy wealth through evil deeds and yet they both have made conscious choices to be on the good and proper side of the law. The two sides are now bound to collide and battle for ultimate control over the town.

In this way, this story (if not the setting) is not unfamiliar to modern audiences. The latest and perhaps one of the best recent examples of this type of story is actually Batman Begins. In it, Bruce Wayne is similar to the two almost but not quite anti-heroes of Appaloosa. They use their understanding of the damaged moral make-up of their opponents to their advantage. They have this knowledge perhaps because, save for their choice and a traumatic event or two, they too could indulge in their opponent’s lifestyle.

Rene Zellweger presumably will play the young widow, Miss French, apparently a woman with her own questionable moral code who complicates Virgil Cole’s already complex ethical terrain.

Ed Harris not only stars in the film but also helped write the screenplay, produces and directs. It will be his second time assuming the position of director since his directorial debut in 2000’s Pollack. His first challenge was actually to begin filming in October of 2007, as fears of a looming actor’s strike threatened to halt productions across Hollywood. They proved to be at the time of this writing unwarranted fears but production was advanced.

The screenplay is based on a book of the same name authored by Robert B. Parker. The book itself is a well reviewed as a complex morality play which breaks from standard conventions of much of popular western fiction, which typically presents characters with clear moral distinctions. It is reported to be an engaging and easily accessible and readable novel. It is also the second pure western novel by Parker following Gunman’s Rhapsody. He is, however, best known for his private investigator novels with the Spenser character. The novels were eventually turned into a brief TV series starring Robert Urich during the mid-'80s. The novels and series explored similar themes to Appaloosa as almost anti-heroes declare their moral codes and pledge their existence to their success and triumph. (D. James Ruccio/BOP)

Vital statistics for Appaloosa
Main Cast Renee Zellweger, Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris
Supporting Cast Timothy V. Murphy, Daniel T. Parker
Director Ed Harris
Screenwriter Ed Harris, Robert Knott
Distributor New Line Cinema
Screen Count 14
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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