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Open Range ***
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Starring Kevin Costner, Robert Duvall, Annette Bening
Directed by Kevin Costner

Costner and Duvall weigh their options.

     I realized something after the lights came on after "Open Range" had gone into its credits stage: the Western is no longer a genre my generation can appreciate.  I came to this conclusion after seeing that I was the only one in the theater under the age of fifty.  It was a good showing of people; the theater was about three-fourths full for a film in its fifth week of release.  There just weren't any people missing gray hair besides me.  It was a startling revelation. 
     It shouldn't have surprised me.  There hasn't been a successful Western since 1995's "Tombstone."  That's a full eight years for those of you keeping score at home. 
     Why has my generation lost touch with this once popular genre?  I speculate it's that there hasn't been a quality Western since "Tombstone" and certainly not a great one since 1992's "Unforgiven."  Without something worthwhile, I couldn't tell anyone to check out a Western.
     Well, for those of you lacking patience, and I can sympathize, "Open Range" is not for you.  For those of you willing to put in some time (two hours and twenty-five minutes), you'll probably enjoy Kevin Costner's latest foray into the directing role.
     "Open Range's" plot may seem like a rehash to most, but that's because it its.  "Open Range" is undeniably similar to a number of Westerns.  Chances are you won't have trouble comparing the plot to other films, but it's got enough pep and beauty to carry a skeptical audience through the film.
     The plot focuses on two men, Charley Waite (Costner) and Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall).  Charley has for worked for Boss as a member of his cattle crew for the better part of ten years.  Along the way, they gathered up a motley crew of strapping young lads (Abraham Benrubi and Diego Luna)  to help out.
     When Mose (Benrubi) runs into trouble while gathering supplies in a town, Boss and Charley set out to find him.  Turns out Mose got into a fight and got beat up bad.  The Marshall put him in jail and let him bleed. 
     A corrupt cattle rancher (Michael Gambon) owns the town and just about everyone in it, including the Marshall.  It seems that the town won't stand for any free-grazers to stay around.  Boss doesn't take no guff from no one, seeing how he's a tough old fogey, so he proposes getting some of Gambon's men before they get them. 
     While Boss and Charley are showing the varmits who's boss (in this case, it's Boss), Mose is killed and Button (Luna) is critically wounded.  A fight is a' brewin', and when the dust settles, men will be dead.
     There are several things that work in the film's favor.  1) The cinematography is gorgeous.  Costner knows how to capture the beauty of the West.  2) The final gunfight is exciting and a worthy addition to the best of the genre.  3)  Duvall and Costner provide extremely likeable characters.  Their relationship is both funny and endearing.  Both of the actors give very good performances.  Duvall is flashier, sparkling behind his wrinkles.  Costner is another story.  He once again proves to be a subtle performer.  His lines are dry and his glances icy, but he's still a very accessible character.
     The film's detractions include the fact that the plot is far from original.  The characters are fun, but I wanted them to be doing something different from what I've seen several times.
     Also, Charley's love story with a feisty, tender-hearted townswomen, Sue (Annette Bening), constantly falls flat.  I love Annette Bening, she's a fine actress, but she's wasted here.  I never bought that Sue and Charley had chemistry, so most of their scenes never went father than awkward.
     The characters and the crowning gunfight are enough for me to recommend "Open Range."  Still, I warn you.  Tread carefully.  It's not for everyone.   

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