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Tuesday, August 10, 2010
A western for grown-ups. It's not about the guns, horses or bullets. It's about friendship, sex and, ultimately, love.
Be warned right now - this movie review is mostly one giant spoiler. Here's the non-spoiler parts right up front. This is a movie that strives to look authentic. The two main characters have known each other for years and have no need for a lot of dialogue - they know each other well, they know each other's habits and their conversations are spare.
Many reviewers have missed the whole point of the movie. It was not about two buddies/lawmen bringing peace to a town, although that does happen (mostly) and the gun fights are quick, brutal and ugly. The movie is about what happens when such a partnership is disrupted by a woman. Look at the DVD cover art and you can see it symbolically represented - there is Renee Zellweger standing between Mortensen and Harris.
****Spoiler alert****The rest of the review is just full of spoilers******
In this case, the woman is a pathetic, despicable thing. The movie comes from a Robert B. Parker book and his books are full of people (mostly women, but not always) that claim to be in love but really they are psychologically needy and act out sexually in strange, disruptive ways.
There are four main characters in this story: Marshal Virgil Cole, Deputy Everett Hitch, Bragg (a rancher/hotel owner) and Mrs. French, a pathetic woman that leeches onto powerful men out of some deep seeded need that we never quite have explained. Suffice it to say, Mrs. French is a survivor because she uses sex to endear herself to the most powerful man in her immediate area.
Many other reviewers have misinterpreted (in my opinion, anyway) the "big" fight scene at the end. Here's my take:
Hitch kills Bragg, but not to defend the honor of Zelweger character, Mrs. French, because she has none to defend. Instead, it is to restore Cole to his rightful place - top dog. Cole won't do anything about it because he loves Mrs. French. She's the first woman he's ever actually talked to about anything except food, sex or meaningless pleasantries - and he loves her despite her messed up, trampy ways. That is his fatal flaw.
Hitch, out of love as Cole's friend, cannot stand to see Cole shamed by Bragg so he defends Cole. Hitch kills Bragg, but in doing so he is now the top dog, rather than Bragg or Cole. In order for Cole to stay in town with the woman he loves and for that relationship to even exist, Hitch has to leave town. If he stays, Mrs. French will just try to seduce him and the Cole/Mrs. French relationship will end. Also, the Hitch/Cole relationship will end.
So, out of friendship, Cole kills Bragg so that Cole has the chance of keeping the woman he loves, even though it ends the Cole/Hitch relationship. Deputy Hitch sacrifices the friendship in order to give his friend a chance at happiness with Mrs. French. Truly, a beautiful moment, although subtly played.
I rate this movie 5 stars out of 5 stars and it can be found on Amazon.com here: Appaloosa.
Reviewed on November 21, 2009.