Posted by J on June 13, 2009
Open Range is Kevin Costner’s tone poem to “freegrazers,” or cowboys who once could graze cattle freely where they pleased. If you’re a Western buff like us, you’ve already figured out without watching the movie that there will be trouble between the freegrazers and the cattle ranchers. Definitely a gun fight at the end. Probably a cowboy or two with a mysterious past. Definitely an outlaw with a fast draw.
Yep, these are all here. It’s as if Costner decided to do everything that’s standard Western fare, only he got Robert Duvall to spice up the cliches.
Costner’s added twist is the romance between his character and a middle-age nurse. Everybody knows that cowboys — at least the stars of the show — don’t need romance. Yet here is romance, one where the cowboy says he’s going to give his bride-to-be “a thousand kisses” not once but twice. Bleeeeech. The Western has long been the vehicle for extreme male independence. Do you not know that, Kevin?
Yes, he does apparently, because the two cowboys go off in the end to rustle up their cattle. The bride-to-be is left waiting for her beloved. The cowboy remains hanging in a state of independence at the end of this movie. So Open Range has it both ways — romance, but independence — yet, practically speaking, the romance aspect is totally unnecessary because females won’t be hanging around for the love relationships to develop after Duvall hits a few guys in the head with the butt of his gun. The nurse could have been left out, and it still would’ve been the same movie.
What contemporary political issue do the freegrazers in this movie signify? Free trade, perhaps? Open immigration? It’s never quite clear. It is true that the cattle ranchers have bought and paid for “the law” — that is, the sheriff is working for the rancher. Thus it’s up to the freegrazers to provide true, natural justice and return the world to its natural order. This includes killing those who have murdered the innocent. With lots of bullets. There’s probably some theological analogy in here, but ultimately it doesn’t matter that much. This is one of those movies — like 99.5% of all those you’ve ever seen — that you’ll forget about two hours later.
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