Viggo Mortensen (left) and Ed Harris are shootin’ blanks.
APPALOOSA (Ed Harris). 114 minutes. Due to scheduling change, now opens September 19. Rating: NN
Based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, Ed Harris's directorial follow-up to Pollock reunites the actor with Viggo Mortensen, his co-star in A History Of Violence, for an old-school western about two gunmen hired to save a town from a despotic rancher (Jeremy Irons, another Cronenberg veteran).
The first reel is enjoyable, with Harris and Mortensen taking obvious pleasure in their characters' fine, comfortable chemistry; their casual dynamic echoes the unspoken connections shared by Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall in the underrated Open Range. But then Renée Zellweger shows up as a plot-complicating widder woman of questionable intentions, which shatters the illusion that we're watching a movie set in a bygone era.
I'm constantly amazed when people cast Zellweger in period pieces, especially westerns; something about the costumes compels her to snuff out her natural spontaneity and replace it with that frozen squinkle thing she does.
And Harris really should have let someone else direct. He has no idea how to stage action sequences, never quite figures out what to do with Zellweger and winds up undercutting Mortensen's biggest scene. Dean Semler's scope imagery sure is lovely, though.Norman Wilner