Open Range [2003]

Director: Kevin Costner
Stars: Robert Duvall, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, Michael Jeter
Genre: Action, Romance, Western
Rating: R (Restricted)
Runtime: 139 minutes

Released almost exactly 11 years after Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven, Kevin Costner's Open Range proved yet again that the Western is the classic American genre. While it lacks the thematic impact of Eastwood's masterpiece, Costner's first film since 1997's ill-fated The Postman returns the actor/director of Dances With Wolves to the open prairies of America--in this case the free-range frontier of 1882--where legal "free-grazing" cattle drives were falling prey to empire-building land-owners. In the wake of territorial murder, free-grazing cowboys Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Costner) seek vengeful justice against the ruthless rancher (Michael Gambon) who threatens their law-abiding survival. A feisty ally (the late Michael Jeter, in his next-to-final film role) and a doctor's sister (Annette Bening) offer support during climactic shootouts, masterfully staged with the shock and suddenness of real-life gunfire. Rich in character development and thick-hided humor, this handsome production redeemed Costner's directorial career with a well-told story (by Craig Storper, based on Lauran Paine's novel The Open Range Men), flawless performances, and stunning Canadian locations. --Jeff Shannon

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