Bros before hos! Bitches ain’t shit! I’m going to die a sad, pathetic, lonely old man!

Some time ago at the Oscars, the Lifetime Achievement Award was being given to filmmaker Elia Kazan, a dude just as famous for his great work with actors as for his great work as a stoolie. When Kazan came up to accept the award, the audience reaction was divided; it seemed like a third gave him a standing ovation, a third made a respectful compromise by applauding for him while still in their seats and the last third remained seated and didn’t clap for shit. Among the silent protesters were Ed Harris and his wife Amy Madigan, both equally mad-faced and flashing the fuckin’ Zoolander Blue Steel toward the old man. I don’t know enough about Ms. Madigan, but Harris definitely seems like an intense motherfucker. I wonder if he’s as intense a film director as he is an actor. Whatever the answer is, it works, because so far he’s directed a damn good film with Pollock and made a pretty good flick with Appaloosa.

Appaloosa is a Western starring Harris and his homeboy from A History of Violence, Viggo Mortensen. In that movie, Harris was the villain and Mortensen was the hero, but in this one they’re partners in peacekeeping. They go around traveling the Old West, setting up shop in towns in need of straightening up. If you want Harris and Mortensen as your town’s marshal & deputy, you have to sign a contract that basically means that you won’t question how they work and stay out of their way. Luckily, our guys are not looking to rip people off or take advantage, they really do have an interest in bringing law to the lawless and cleaning up the streets. The only people who have to worry are the guilty.

And playing the guilty party in Appaloosa is Jeremy Irons. He’s this asshole rancher named Bragg who has moved in with his gang of assholes and brags (or is that “Braggs”) about being bros with President Chester A. Arthur. His employees have a tendency to go into town and do such lovely things like raping and killing, so when the town marshal and his two deputies go over to arrest a couple of them, Bragg kills all three. You have to give it up to him for at least protecting his employees, you certainly don’t see the heads of modern businesses doing that shit; “Wait. You mean I can save fifty more cents an hour if I fire 20,000 of my workers without benefits or severance? Just a second…”

Most “buddy movies” are annoying in that all the buddies do is yell at each other, and somehow we’re supposed to think this shit is funny because Volume = Laughs. But in the end, you don’t buy that they would be friends in real life. But in Appaloosa, you really do get the sense that Harris and Mortensen’s characters have known each other for a long time, long enough to know what makes the other person tick and long enough to kinda know what the other dude is about to say. There’s a lot of details and quirks to the characters in this flick that I found really charming. I doubt there will be a follow-up to this flick, which is too bad, because I would’ve loved to watch these dudes in other situations. Meanwhile, we’ll probably get three more Rush Hour sequels because people can’t get enough of Black Guy Different Than Chinese Guy, apparently.

Mortensen is kinda like Dr. Watson to Harris’ Sherlock Holmes, and has learned quite a bit from the dude, but you realize that if anything, Mortensen is the stronger and smarter person. But he doesn’t want to fuck shit up or rock the boat, and smarter or not, he knows when it comes down to it, Harris is the boss and he’s the right arm. In the meantime, he’ll just wait for whenever Harris asks him how to pronounce certain words.

So while Harris and Mortensen try to lay down the law, another kind of trouble arrives, the kind of trouble that wears heels and a corset. She’s played by Renee Zellweger and I’m trying to remember the last time I found her attractive, if at all. Let’s see — she was cute in Love and a .45 and Jerry Maguire, but, uh, that’s about it really. I was never into her, sorry. But I’d still hit it. One thing has nothing to do with the other. Zellweger looks right in this movie, she looks like the kind of woman a guy might want to marry in the 1800’s. Supposedly Diane Lane was going to play this role but she dropped out before shooting for whatever reason, and it’s best that she did anyway, because even in her mid-forties Lane’s way too pretty for the role. Have you ever seen old pictures of women from that time period? Exactly. Not a Scarlett or Jessica in the bunch.

Zellweger catches Harris’ eye and even though he’s a badass tough guy, he’s still a man, so it was only a matter of time before he fell in Stupid — I mean, fell in Love. I really like the dynamic between Zellweger, Harris and Mortensen; you might think this flick is setting up as a love triangle, but that’s not the case at all. Harris falls in love with Zellweger and Mortensen watches all of this, tripping out on his friend, this guy he’s known for 12 years acting differently now that he’s with this chick. And he’s not pissed at him for it, it’s more of a slightly amused reaction he gets to all of this shit, and you know he wishes nothing but the best for his bro with this girl, but for god’s sake don’t be so fuckin’ dumb about it either!

You may have noticed I haven’t written about much in the way of action, and that’s because to be honest, this isn’t really an action movie. This is a character piece with moments of action in it, and not the other way around. It’s definitely a genre piece, but that genre is Western, and who’s to say you have to have wall-to-wall gunfire in a Western? As long as one dude shoots at another dude with his six-gun, you’ve pretty much satisfied the genre requirements. The main thing is to never be boring, and Appaloosa isn’t boring at all. After the big main shootout, there’s still another 25 minutes or so of movie left, and that could be death in another flick — DEATH — but not in this one. Because there’s still other shit you’re caught up in, and you want to see where they go with it.

It’s all very old-school, too. The look, the style, even the few scenes of gunfire have an old-fashioned feel to them. And that’s all right with me, because it works. You can tell Ed Harris was aping the Westerns that he grew up watching, wanting to make something that wouldn’t look out of place with films of that time. But if you’ve been spoiled by action-packed 21st-Century Westerns like the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, then maybe you should look elsewhere. We don’t fuckin’ need you. But I got a kick out of this flick. I found all the stuff going on between the characters incredibly entertaining and if someone along the way pulled out a gun and fired it, well that was just the cherry on top of this already delicious sundae. Christ, what a faggy statement.

Okay, you want a complaint? The gunshots could’ve been way better. They’re pretty much the kind of lame pops a gun with blanks would make on the film set, which would normally be replaced on the soundtrack with more manly BLAMS and BOOMS, but I guess they forgot, or maybe Ed Harris just wasn’t having any of that shit.

Appaloosa didn’t make great shakes at the box office, but I’m certain it will find its audience eventually, if not on DVD then definitely on cable, where you just fucking KNOW it’s going to end up playing every other day on TNT. As long as one of those days is a Sunday, it’s all good, because this feels like the kind of movie that would play best on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Anyway, going back to what I was talking about at the beginning, here’s the link to the vid of Elia Kazan receiving his award. I would’ve embedded it on this page, but the Oscar douches disabled that option. Take it over to the 1:30 mark for some laughs.

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