By Fred Topel | Images property of New Line Cinema
Appaloosa is the best western since 3:10 to Yuma, which is to say it's a western. It's a good one, simple in story and concise with action, but rich with character.
The basic premise is lawman Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) is hired to catch a bad guy who's too tough for other lawmen. Cole and his buddy (Viggo Mortensen) do their thing, while a new girl in town (Renee Zellweger) challenges Cole's heart.
So it's pretty simple. Obey the law. If you decide not to, there's conflict. These guys disobey so Cole springs into action.
There are a few twists throughout. There are some characters introduced who looked innocent to me, and the other party seemed like bad guys, but that turned out to be not the case. Character's motivations sometimes change too, but we're not talking big spoilers. It's just interesting developments.
The motif of the film is quick draws and tough talk. Cole is a badass. He stands by his word and deals in preventative violence. He's got interesting flaws, but they don't really threaten the story. They're just there.
There's not actually a whole lot happening. Occasionally there's a scuffle or some gunplay, but there's a lot of time spent out in the wilderness, giving the boys opportunity to talk about their emotions. It's interesting to hear simple men treating their emotions simply, but not ignoring them.
Some of the film's simple dialogue suggests inadequate scripting. Some conversations feel like "What happened next?" "That happened." The very second scene of the movie opens with someone telling Cole what happened in the first scene. You can skip that part. We get it.
It's fine though. To get to see big names play cowboys, do some badass gunslinging and actually have some heart in the middle of it is a good time.