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Huffman review: ‘Appaloosa’ is the perfect guy flick

‘Appaloosa’
Rated: R (language, violence)
Starring: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger
Running length: 1 hr., 48 min.
Directed by: Ed Harris
Rating:PPP (out of 4)
I really liked “Appaloosa,” the latest offering from Ed Harris.
It’s a Western set in 1882 in the territory that became the state of New Mexico.
The movie is a perfect guy flick, with Virgil Cole (played by Harris) and his sidekick, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), bonding in a fashion not seen in a Western since “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
Cole and Hitch ó longtime lawmen who themselves push the envelope of lawlessness ó are called to Appaloosa to bring order to a town besieged by a band of ne’er-do-wells led by Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), a ruthless rancher.
“It’s what we do,” Hitch says upon describing their profession.
“It is, ain’t it?” Cole replies.
Cole and Hitch are consistently outnumbered, but never let it concern them, never backing away from a fight. When they see a pair of Bragg’s men trying to intimidate them by watching from a hill, they don’t hide, but ride out to ask the varmints their business.
One of the outlaws informs Cole he has no jurisdiction over the site, to which Cole replies, “He’s by God right about it,” then slugs him in the mouth with the butt of his pistol.
The blow knocks out a tooth and leaves the bandit reeling and bloody. He spits and cusses, then tells Cole, “Mr. Bragg ain’t going to like you hitting me.”
“And I bet you didn’t care for it too much yourself,” Cole replies.
In another scene, Cole and Hitch confront a group of Bragg’s men urinating inside the town’s saloon.
Cole tells them to put their “little contraptions” back in their pants, that they’re under arrest. When they resist, they’re shot dead.
Bragg rides into town to complain to Cole about what has played out, then tells Cole he can’t have him shooting three of his men.
“As a matter of fact, I only shot two,” Cole replies.
He points to Hitch, sitting across the room with a shotgun in his lap.
“Mr. Hitch shot the other one,” Cole continues.
The scenery is superb and the outfits magnificent, convincing me that I had it right when I was 5 years old and knew that what I really wanted out of life was to be a cowboy.
Renee Zellweger plays Allison French, the love interest to Cole (and, to an extent, Hitch and numerous others). It’s a complex role, which is one of the movie’s attractions ó not everything is laid out in perfect black and white.
The line between the good guys and the bad guys often intersect. It’s not your stereotypical Western.
Even the movie’s biggest shootout is quick and efficient, lasting but a few seconds.
Both Cole and Hitch are hit, though each survive. Hitch marvels aloud at the brevity of the gunplay, prompting Cole to respond, “Everybody knew how to shoot.”
Harris, who directed the movie, shot for a classic and came darn close.

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