Roger and Ebert review Open Range




Directed by

Written by

Based On The Novel by

Action, Drama, Romance, Western

Rated R For Violence

135 minutes

  |  Roger Ebert

August 15, 2003   |   2

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One of the many ways in which the Western has become old-fashioned is that the characters have values, and act on them. Modern action movies have replaced values with team loyalty; the characters do what they do because they want to win and they want the other side to lose. The underlying text of most classic Westerns is from the Bible: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" The underlying text of most modern action movies is from Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." Kevin Costner's "Open Range," an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western, works primarily because it expresses the personal values of a cowboy named Boss (Robert Duvall) and his employee of 10 years, Charley (Costner). Boss does not believe in unnecessary violence, and is willing to put his own life to risk rather than kill someone just to be on the safe side. Charley was an expert killer during the Civil War, and has spent 10 years under Boss trying to tame that side of his character. Boss is not only his friend but his mentor and, in a sense, his spiritual leader. Charley doesn't merely work with him, but follows him as a sort of disciple.

Annie Wright