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Not the West

PUBLISHED: 13:17 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 17:11 16 August 2010

TAKING the downbeat mood and visual vocabulary of Howard Hawks classic westerns Rio Bravo and El Dorado as reference points, actor/director Ed Harris has crafted a respectable - if somewhat bland -

APPALOOSA

Cert 15

TAKING the downbeat mood and visual vocabulary of Howard Hawks' classic westerns Rio Bravo and El Dorado as reference points, actor/director Ed Harris has crafted a respectable - if somewhat bland - piece of old-fashioned film making.

When the titular town's sheriff is shot down by a nasty rancher named Bragg, Virgil Cole (Harris) and Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are taken on as the new marshals.

In time-honoured fashion the two men are laconic loners who drift from town to town turfing out the bad guys, and they quickly succeed in bringing a sense of order to the town. The peace is gone as soon as it came though when an eyewitness agrees to testify against the murderous rancher. To complicate things further, a gutsy young widow named Allison French (Renee Zellweger) arrives at the town, quickly falls for Cole's quiet strength and it's not long before the two make plans to build a house together in Appaloosa.

The two lawmen bring Bragg to justice and he is sentenced to hang, but when his men stage a jailbreak and take Allison hostage the conflict gets more personal and obsessive and Cole finds himself smack in the middle of a complex moral dilemma.

Both Harris and Mortensen are on top form and turn in performances that are exercises in subtle understatement.

Zellweger fares less well and struggles to bring the feisty charm and wholesome allure that are required by the script.

It's all put together well and is entertaining enough but fails to bring anything new to the genre.

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