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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Last Wild West

Appaloosa on IMDb

Plot Overview

Peter Lyon has written authoritatively of the wild west:
In this never-never land, the superhero is the gun slinger, the man who can draw fastest and shoot straightest; in brief the killer. Some­times he swaggered along the wooden side­walks with a silver star pinned to his shirt, a sheriff or a United States marshal, but whether he was out­law or officer of the law, if he applied him­self diligently to the smashing of the Ten Command­ments, with special attention to the Sixth—that is if he was a sufficiently ugly, evil and murderous killer—he was in a way to become a storied American hero. (64)

In “Appaloosa” set in 1882 in the New Mexico Territory, rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) who'd arrived from back east where he's rumored to have been a speculator of some sort—he does have political connections—shoots Sheriff Jack Bell (Bobby Jauregui) and a couple deputies come to arrest two of his men for murder and rape. There goes Thou shalt not kill and maybe Thou shalt not steal.

The town hires itinerant gun slingers Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) to bring him to justice and generally keep the peace. These two are known for whoring and the latter once “shot a man in Tres Piedra, the only time I killed it wasn't legal.” Add Thou shalt not commit adultery to the list, in its broadest sense.

BibleThe hands that witnessed the sheriff's murder, all save one, swear in court it didn't happen, but they fail to convince the judge. There goes Thou shalt not bear false witness.

The condemned man hires his own gun slingers the Shelton brothers (Mackie & Ring) to spring him in transit, and some marauding Indians decide they'd like to help them­selves to their female hostage. Add Thou shalt not covet to the mix.

The American Civil War left gazillions of widows and a dearth of men. According to writer William Speidel, “Over 360,000 young men had died as a result of the Civil War, and there were war widows until they ran out your ears” (Speidel, 107.) We find one of them Mrs Allison “Allie” French (Renée Zellweger) arriving by train in Appaloosa, and she quickly gets engaged to Marshal Cole, though she'll flirt with (kiss) his deputy Hitch whom she's keeping in reserve (“Virgil dies, you replace him.”) It's pretty under­stand­able considering her back­ground and harm­less enough as far as it goes (“Virgil's not here.”)


So the two lawmen are trailing the two gunmen with the escapee down the wash while looking for sign of Allie whom they were supposed to let go after they were out of sight. They find their camp and Hitch looks through a spy glass to see if he can spot her. Yep, there she is in all her glory. Hitch hands the scope to Virgil. Oh, the expression on his face! That telescope redefined his life, reminiscent of author Alan Wall:

The truly momentous year in history of this device, the one which had made its use obligatory and shifted the perceptions of human­kind irrevocably … was 1609 to 1610— ¶Aris­tot­elian­iasm began to die there and then, for there was not, as the Greek philosopher had asserted and the European intellectual tradition had maintained for nearly two thousand years, perfection in the heavenly sphere. The same laws applied up there as apply down here. (85–6)

dinnerWhen Hitch talks to Allie, she says, “I am mortified that you saw me with no clothes on.” Hitch says, “They've seen pretty much every­thing you got, Allie. No sense covering it up now.” Virgil's later assessment is, “She speaks well, she dresses fine, she's good-looking, she can play the piano, she cooks good, she's very clean, chews her food nice; but it appears she'll fuck any­thing ain't gelded.” It's like (Prov. 30:20) “Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.”

We get a lot of covering for sexual sins in the movies, which affects our assessment of same. It's as per Wall, “Each single one of us is a photo­graphic, micro­scopic, teles­copic, and cinematic museum. And we barely notice. We've become our own images. We've become the after­life of our own images.” (87)

Production Values

” (2008) was directed by Ed Harris. Its screenplay was written by Robert Knott and Ed Harris based on a novel by Robert Parker. It stars Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen and Renée Zellweger. Also featured are Timothy Spall as Phil Olson, Lance Henriksen as Ring Shelton, Tom Bower as Abner Raines, James Gammon as Earl May, Ariadna Gil as Katie, Rex Linn as Sheriff Clyde Stringer and Bob L. Harris as Judge Elias Callison. The actors portrayed their western characters well, but Zellweger seemed miscast for her serious role.

MPA rated it R for some violence and language. Virgil came down on a cowboy in a bar for using bad language in the presence of a lady. The production design was period authentic. The low-key lighting worked well. The music score was right on the money and never too loud or over­bearing. The film used a good ensemble cast and threw in a bit of historical trivia to boot. Runtime is 1 hour 55 minutes.

Review Conclusion w/a Christian's Recommendation

Overshadowing a standard cowboy plot was the late year for such a tale when the times were about to change, obviating the need for hired guns inside the law or out. As such the protagonists faced an uncertain future that we the audience could anticipate better than they. It added a thinking dimension to a familiar scenario. It also worked just as a cowboy shoot-em-up. The romance, such as it was, seemed more a negotiation than an affair of the heart.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Three stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture is quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Lyon, Peter. “The Wild, Wild West.” Copyright © 1960, 1969 by Peter Lyon. Originally appeared in American Heritage, August, 1960. Reprinted by permission in Stephen B. Oates. Portrait of America Vol. II. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973. Print.

Speidel, William C. SONS of the PROFITS, or, There's No Business Like Grow Business! The Seattle Story, 1851–1901. Seattle: Nettle Creek Publishing Co., 1967. Print.

Wall, Alan. Sylvie's Riddle. Copyright © Alan Wall 2008. London: Quartet Books Limited, 2008. Print