Open Range
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo courtesy of Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

Ever wonder what happened to old-fashioned cowboy movies where the good guys clean up a town by killing all the bad guys. Well Kevin Costner has successfully brought back the old fashioned cowboy with Open Range. Costner directs and stars in this film that is almost as old fashioned as those westerns where the good guy never kisses the girl. In this film Costner, in the character of Charley Waite, only kisses the town doctor’s sister Sue (Annette Bening) at the very end of the film, and he does this in such a shy and awkward manner that the older members of the audience will have flashbacks to the Lone Ranger.

But this old fashion quality is only one aspect of what makes this a thoroughly enjoyable film. Charley is a real primal man who realized early in life that killing is what he did best. A civil war veteran and later a hired gun, his humanity finally catches up to him and he tries to leave his past behind. He does this by teaming up with Boss (Robert Duval), an old open range cattleman that Charley respects for his down to earth morals. Boss doesn’t hold with killing unless it’s absolutely necessary, and in the 10 years they ride together, Charley never kills another human being.

But when a cattle rancher murders one of Boss’ men and shoots another out of sheer prejudice against open range cattlemen, Boss knows that absolute necessity has arrived and reluctantly listens to Charley’s plan. The entire film builds to the final gun battle as most old-fashioned westerns do. Charley once again becomes the killer, but this time it’s with a high moral purpose that completes a kind of self-trauma therapy that began when he first started riding for Boss.

Charley’s journey is a karmic one, and though karma is an eastern concept, it’s not off the mark since many classic westerns were based on Japanese samurai films.

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