Appaloosa: Viggo Mortensen Will Shoot You Now

Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are the new marshal and deputy facing down a posse of bad guys in Appaloosa, New Mexico, circa 1882, in Harris' latest directorial effort. Appaloosa has the shifting boundaries of friendship and love on its mind, but this isn't a movie likely to raise comparisons to the tortured revisionism of Unforgiven, or even to last year's hyperactive shoot-'em-up, 3:10 to Yuma—and that's surely fine by Harris. He and his collaborators are playing it straight with a timeless male fantasy—horse, hat, six-shooter—a traditional approach that will please moviegoers like my dad and yours: men who walked out of No Country for Old Men puzzled, feeling like they'd been cheated out of a climactic gun battle between lawman and villain. Harris keeps the shootouts coming—there's even a run-in with some canny Indians—but in this efficient Western, there are no close-ups of shifting eyes and nervous trigger fingers, just sudden, over-in-a-blink violence. Truth be told, it probably wouldn't have killed the director to belabor the tension a little more, but hey, real men don't drag things out.

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