Appaloosa is the screen adaptation of the novel written by Robert B. Parker. Directed, co-written and produced by Ed Harris who was absorbed by the story after reading the book on holiday. By his own words, it was the relationship between the two lead characters that he felt would work so well on screen. The result is a wonderful character-driven old-style western. That is a rich observation of the people living in this part of American history.
The main focus of the story is on two-lifetime friends Virgil Cole and Everitt Hitch. One an ex-West Point trained officer and the other a hardened lawman. They make their way from town to town, enforcing their laws to create order before moving on for a fresh purse. Appaloosa has been under the control of the corrupt rancher Randall Bragg and his men for too long. Until Cole and Hitch are hired to bring peace and order for the townsfolk.
Harris creates a fine piece of storytelling that is weaved with lots of subtle humor. There is just the right amount of harsh brutal violence to make it feel real. But the best thing is the authentic old style to the film. The cinematography is touching perfection for this genre. Dean Semler who filmed Dances on Wolves was brought in to film and with harris's direction, they create a beautifully atmospheric piece.
One thing that really stands out is the excellent performances from the cast. As you would expect with an Ed Harris film, he plays the lead role. But it has to be said, he is brilliant playing Virgil Cole and delivers some amazing lines. In particular, the quick-fire responses he gives to two of Braggs men in the bar just before quickly killing them. Viggo Mortensen plays Everitt Hitch with super-cool style, setting up the perfect double act with Harris. If I see a weak point, it would be Renée Zellweger who plays Allie French, Coles love interest, but she seems a little out of place somehow. But the real surprise comes from Jeremy Irons as Randall Bragg. Appaloosa was the first Western that Irons has starred in, but his portrayal is fantastic swinging from killing maniac to a devious power-crazed political figure.
It's fair to say, that this is a very conventional Western Style film. Here's the bottom line, if you like westerns then this is a film that ticks all of the boxes with style. For me, however, there are parts in this film that tend to drag a little. But overall I really enjoyed Appaloosa, as an intelligent good guys vs bad guys movie, it works. Packed with great dialogue, brilliant characters, perfect ending and amazing camera work – Appaloosa is well worth watching.