Appaloosa is a pretty decent western that I happen to love. I can’t claim that my enjoyment of the movie is directly proportional to the quality, because a perfect movie it ain’t. No, I dug Appaloosa as much as I did because it plays with a theme that I’ve always been fascinated with.
*thematic spoilers ahead*
Appaloosa is ostensibly about the only man in town who isn’t full of shit.
Viggo Mortensen’s Everett is a well-spoken, but rarely speaking gunman, the partner of Ed Harris’ Virgil, who speaks loudly if not well. Everett plays a fairly submissive role in the partnership, usually playing second-gun and punctuating Virgil’s big words for him. Virgil is recognized as the brains of the operation, but it’s obvious that Everett is the hidden weapon of this two-bit organization. Riding from town to town, the partners sell law and order to whoever needs it.
Appaloosa is in desperate need of some since Jeremy Iron’s Randall Bragg and company have become insidious, thieving, sherifficidal, drunken, pissing leeches. Add in the pretty lady (who definitely isn’t all she seems) rolling into town and you have yourself the stage for a good ole’ time western. The inevitable twists and turns come and go in a well handled, if expected fashion until the end, when pretty much everyone is left looking stupid, disingenuous, or both. Except for Everett.
The beautiful irony of the whole thing is set up earlier in the movie, as Everett and Virgil have a fire-side chat. Virgil lets Everett in on the secret that he isn’t as good as the other gunslingers in the story because he “has feelings.”
“Feelings get you killed.”
Of course, on the other side of the climax, Everett is the only one not left ball and chained to Appaloosa. Everett isn’t drug back to Appaloosa by pride like the villain, Bragg. He isn’t anchored to an adulterous woman by irrational love, like Virgil. He isn’t slave to a philandering instinct because of fear, like Allison. Everett certainly feels loyalty, but it is based off of time and experience with Virgil, and it is not an irrational loyalty that prevents him from moving on and continuing his life. Naturally it’s the one person in the whole damn town not talking a lot of shit, who isn’t completely full of it.
Personally I love this idea. Several of the characters in my own stories exist in situations in which they are the only ones taking things seriously. Being the only one in the room who isn’t playing a game is a theme I enjoy a lot, and I ended up appreciating Appaloosa more than most of my friends because of it (irony?).
I haven’t seen Pollock, so I can’t say how much 8 years has helped or hindered Harris’ directing hand. I can say that it is directed well, but suffers from overconfidence from time to time. Several folks I know who’ve seen it complain that characters and personalities make leaps or develop too quickly. I think this is less a problem than Harris’ failure to handle time well. Honestly, just throwing in a couple of cross-fades and dissolves would have solved this problem easily enough, but Harris relies on visual or background elements to demonstrate leaps in time. Problem is, when the vagabond badass gunman is suddenly settling down with a woman, it’s a bit disconcerting until you realize that, presumably, several weeks have passed. Again, a fade would have been nice Ed.
If occasionally overconfident, a sure slow hand is alway appreciated these days and Appaloosa provides a strong well delivered story. Occasionally clever, often humorous, and always classy, I highly recommend Appaloosa. It doesn’t seem that we get westerns, much less ones worth a shit, all that often. It’s not one that’s going to change your view of the genre or anything, but it will fit nicely on the western shelf.
Thanks for reading!
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Past One-Word Movie Reviews
September 30th, 2008 : : The Man With A Movie Camera – Hyper-Lumiere
September 17th, 2008 : : Happiness – Squalid
August 25th, 2008 : : Starship Troopers – Grandiloquent!
August 18th, 2008 : : Inglorious Bastards – Carpenter-esque
August 10th, 2008 : : Mondo Cane – Condescending
August 8th, 2008 : : Naked Lunch - Neither
July 29th, 2008 : : The Hitcher  – Rutger!
July 8th, 2008 : : Lou Ferrigno’s Hercules – Spacey
July 1st, 2008 : : WALL-E – Tender
June 27th, 2008 : : Addio Zio Tom (Goodbye Uncle Tom) - Evil
June 22nd, 2008 : : You Don’t Mess With The Zohan – Jocular
June 17th, 2008 : : The Happening – Embarrassing
June 14th, 2008 : : Kung-Fu Panda – Thin
June 12th, 2008 : : Run Lola Run – Reckless
June 9th, 2008 : : Day Watch – Upgrade
June 8th, 2008 : : The Amateurs – Endearing