Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Open Range

MPAA Rating: R for violence

Reviewed by: Jay Levitz
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Western
Length:
2 hr. 15 min.
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Copyright, Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

Starring: Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Abraham Benrubi, Robert Duvall, Michael Gambon | Directed by: Kevin Costner | Produced by: Kevin Costner, David Valdes, Craig Storper | Written by: Craig Storper, Lauran Paine | Distributor: Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

Kevin Costner’s third directorial outing, “Open Range”, pairs the younger actor-director with veteran Robert Duvall in one of the only Westerns you may expect to come out of Hollywood this year. Judging by the fruits of Costner’s efforts herein, the genre has yet to be rejuvenated.

Charlie and Boss (Costner and Duvall, respectively) are two free-range cowboys who run into trouble after a wealthy landowner, Baxter (Michael Gambon), hinders their cow-herding trek with violence via hired killers and a corrupt Marshall.

Based on a book with the same title by Lauran Paine, director Costner’s epic features beautiful scenery (filmed in Alberta, Canada), plus solid acting by Duvall, Costner, the late Michael Jeter, and Annette Bening. But the plot of “Open Range” does not bear the weight of such talents expended here, and its predictability may leave you looking at your watch, waiting for the inevitable shoot-out climax.

Costner’s Oscar-winning directorial debut, “Dances With Wolves”, was compelling for three hours, as we watched its main character slowly, fascinatingly, make changes in his attitude toward the Sioux Indians. The film showed how a man could grow to love people whom he once considered enemies.

For a good film on forgiveness, “Forgiven”]

In Costner’s latest movie, a “bad” man is just a “bad” man who deserves to be killed. A “good” man can do many things, like killing nearly all of his enemies, while he still remains “good” because he is administering justice. Such is the logic of “Open Range” and, perhaps, the overwhelming majority of Hollywood products. Still another rule is closely followed: those who are “good” can’t be killed by evil—no matter how outnumbered. The good always seem to attract local beauty quickly as well, hence Annette Bening’s character, Sue, exists to service this clich.

Fans of John Wayne films may enjoy “Open Range” for its humor, beautiful vistas, and salty cowboy dialogue full of single-syllable words. Those who may be looking for a little more depth should look elsewhere, since this is a mere revenge fantasy. Costner puts a great deal of care into the final blood bath that “cleanses” the town of its evil influence, making the scene exciting to watch, realistic, and loud.

If the same amount of care had been put into developing the love story between Costner and Bening, perhaps showing parts of Charlie’s dark past, “Open Range” might have had some depth. But the filmmakers settle for warm, fuzzy, and bloody, rather than take risks like Clint Eastwood did 11 years ago with the genre-bending “Unforgiven”.

From one perspective, Costner is simply giving audiences what they expect with this Western: a love story, a shoot-out on Main Street, and great photography. From another perspective, he is cheating himself and everyone else by producing a film so basic and forgettable as “Open Range”, especially after the intelligence, maturity, and storytelling ability Costner demonstrated within 1990’s “Dances With Wolves”, which was released on DVD recently and includes an extra hour of story, plus many extras.

“Open Range” is a disappointing Western, selling an old story with hardly an idea to add, at a time when our country, perhaps the whole world, needs to witness forgiveness and real sacrifice in this particularly American genre of films, rather than more revenge and anger.

Open Range is rated R for violence. It also contains a fair amount of profanity, including several misuses of God’s name. One character even goes so far as to characterize “the man upstairs” with an expletive, due to his bitterness. Children of any age should not be taken to this film for entertainment. Mostly because they will likely only enjoy the ten-minute shooting scene and will likely be asleep due to boredom once the movie arrives at that moment.

Year of Release—2003

Movie Critics
…Blood/Gore: Moderate / Profanity: Moderate / Violence: Extreme…
—ScreenIt!
…ponderous pace and emotions distilled from much older movies… The actors do fine work, especially Duvall…
—Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
…a patient film—it takes its old, sweet time—but it tests our patience to a maddening degree. …Costner has noble intentions, but he only bores us with them…
—Blake French, FilmCritic.com
…romantic, beautiful, and delightfully authentic Western. Call me a sentimental old crow. I loved this…
—Emily Blunt, BluntReview

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Other than the profanity and taking God’s name in vane (the norm for movies today), this is a great western saga. Definitely not for children. It has moments where it drags but otherwise worth seeing if you’re not squeamish viewing a very realistic gunfight. Beautiful scenery and superb acting by Duvall and Kostner.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—S Owens, age 57
Positive—If you like westerns, good guys winning over bad guys, hero gets the pretty girl, this is an outstanding movie. Kostner and Duval do great jobs with their characters. Good story, one of the best choreographed gun fights I’ve ever seen at the end. How this got an R rating I don’t know. Well, I do—gun violence, but not gratuitous. Took my teenage kids and they enjoyed the movie. Occasional gruff language, no sexual scenes or inuendo.
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—John Scherrer, age 48
Neutral—Open Range appears to present a portrayal of the old west and its harsh and rugged style of living without many of the comforts and amenities we enjoy today, as well as the corruption, lawlessness and violent ways of society in the 1880s. It also depicts revenge by two characters, Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner (which the Bible says is the Lord’s) to right the wrongs and evildoings portrayed by some of the characters in the movie. Despite its R-rating I truly believe Open Range could very well have been deserving of a “PG-13”—there were no “F” words, no sex and no nudity—all common elements of most R-rated movies. The movie received its “R” rating undoubting due to a 15 to 20 minute segment(of this overall two-hour movie) due to a bloody and violent gunfight. Regardless, Open Range is not for young children, again, largely and primarily due to this particularly segment. The only other drawbacks to this movie are the numerous times the “Boss” Cowboy (Robert Du vall) takes the name of the Lord in vain (at least 10 times—otherwise, there was very little other profanity). Also, at one point, he refuses to pray and even refers to God in a profane way because, in his mind, God allowed their unfavorable situation to occur (bad guys killing one of his men, his dog, and seriously injuring a young, 16-year old boy he was looking after). In a summation, while I very much liked this movie, I give Open Range, from a Christian standpoint, a neutral because of both positives (no sex, nudity and limited, contained violence/bloodshed) and negatives (constantly taking the Lord’s name in vain and a very disrespectful and profane reference to God by one of the lead characters. I believe most Christians, if they enjoy westerns, would probably enjoy this movie because the positives outweigh the negatives.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Dave Caloiaro, age 44
Positive—I went to see this movie together with my husband and a minister friend. I must say that I was pleased to not have to endure times of embarrassment for taking a friend. We carefully screen R rated movies and found this one to be exceptionally good for its rating. I would allow my older teenage sons to see this. The acting was the best I’ve seen from Kevin Costner in a very long time. The story was engaging and the violence was definitely present but the film wasn’t loaded with constant images. I felt it had a very engaging “western” story. We enjoyed it very much.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Lynn, age 42
PositiveKevin Costner’s acting career has been winding down for some time due to the fact that audiences have noticed that he is limited in the roles he can convincingly play; he essentially plays himself in much the same manner as John Wayne. This explains why his later movies have been flops, like “Water World,” a highly offensive movie and tedious due partly to the same old Kevin Costner appearing that we saw in his previous characters. I saw “Open Range” with this fact in mind and was pleasantly surprised. I expected Robert Duvall to turn in his usual fine performance. Much can be said about Duvall’s outstanding portrayal. But Costner was also completely convincing as a 19th century cowboy on the open range. This seems to me to be his finest performance ever. “Open Range” is a beautifully filmed, beautifully scored movie that does a great job of picturing life in that period and place. The story line is entertaining. The sets are excellent. Everything fits very well. Alberta, Canada is a fabulous backdrop. The professional movie critics pan this movie because they think it’s too slow. But that is a good reason to like this movie. Christians will object to the occasional, but usual (for Hollywood) rough language and profanity. The gunfight sequence near the end is shocking in that the stereo sound of the old Colt 45 handguns is alarmingly realistic and the brutality of hardened men is emphasized. All things considered, “Open Range” is a worthwhile choice.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Alan Roberts, age 53
Positive—This movie is excellent for those who like their action flicks but miss the drama most often left out of most such films these days. The cinematography was outstanding and the acting excellent. Altough many critics accuse the first half to be “slow,” I found it intriguing, for although it set the stage for the big gunfight, it made the lead-up to the fight seem less like “creating an excuse for the fight” and more like the big fight being the innevitable conclusion to a deeper story. The gunfight itself seemed more real than most Westerns, we thought. I don’t want to spoil anything, but they broke the rule of “the lone stand.” Although the movie is rated R, the graphics were extremely minimal (compared to other rated R films), and I have seen more displays of violence on some PG-13 films. There were negative aspects from a Christian perspective. Of course, there was the violence. Charlie fails to divert his eyes away from looking through a cracked door where he sees Sue in her petticoat. Although the town did have a church, I wondered where the town preacher was the whole time. Most sadly, both the Boss and Charlie blame God for allowing the murder of their friend to occur. The film also contained some positives. There is no sex or nudity in the film. Despite the petticoat scene, in every other way Charlie shows respect towards Sue (I could share some of the things I was impressed with, but that would spoil the film). A clear comparison is taught between justice and vengeance. Mercy is displayed. The Boss and Charlie genuinely cared for the fate of the townsfolk, despite any reasons they may have had not to, and do all they can to make sure none of them get caught in the fight they have with the corrupt sheriff and evil rancher. Overall, as far as Hollywood values go, I found more to appreciate about the film than to object to.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Deanna, age 32
Negative—If I knew that Robert Duvall’s character calls “the Man upstairs” a S.O.B. (not abbreviated that is), I would not have spent my money on it, much less want to hear it. I guess in the this world, you get de-sensitized to curses, but that I couldn’t handle. It’s a shame they messed up a movie like with such profanity. I understand the world’s view of God is warped, but that doesn’t mean I have to hear that. I like westerns and I was looking forward to this, but I won’t recommend it.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 4]
—Rick L, age 34
Positive—I’d like to address some people’s complaints about the film (if you want to know my views of the movie: I liked it. The love story and over-the-top villains were major flaws, but the acting and staging of violence were masterful). Anyway, most are ragging on the scene where Boss calls God an expletive. What they haven’t brought up is that later in the film he is made to recant. When Button is found to be alive, Sue says “Don’t thank me, thank God.” to which Boss replies, “Yeah, maybe we should try that for a change.” It’s pretty apparent that the characters have seen the fallacy of cursing God when things don’t go their way.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—David Lambert, age 21
Neutral—I hate to focus on a couple of lines from over a two hour movie, but the comment by Robert Duvall calling God an S.O.B. was the worst I believe I’ve ever heard. He’s one of my favorite actors but that one part ruined the movie for me. I mean if we can watch someone curse God directly and it not bother us, then what would bother us? Other than that scene and the numerous other references taking God’s name in vain, it was a fair movie. I normally don’t watch R rated movies but made an exception. Now I wish I hadn’t.
My Ratings: [Average/2]
—Richard, age 44
Positive—Loved it! I imagine daily life on the range wouldn’t be exciting… just slowly roll along, which is how the first part of the movie is. It’s down to Earth versus being racy and flashy. The characters are great. Loved the cowboy’s respect and upright behavior towards the woman. A special sweet movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Deb, age 48

Comments from young people
Positive—A great movie. The acting is amazing and the action scene was spectacular. I was also impressed with the NON IMPLIFICATION of sex. Two of the main charactors love eac hother, normally even in PG-13 they are in bed by the end of the film. NOT THIS ONE. I was disappointed because there was only one fight scene. But man it was good. There was mild language. But if the Lord’s name in vain gets to you a lot. DON’T SEE IT. There is a scene where Duvall says that he is mad at God and that he doesn’t want to talk the “son of a b***h.” Though saying God’s name in vain is wrong. Because of the situation it’s sort of hard to hold it against the movie. Go see it. If you have kids that are early teens, I don’t see why they couldn’t either.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/5]
—UA, age 13