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Stars: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Renee Zellweger, Jeremy Irons, Timothy Spall, Lance Henriksen, Tom Bower, James Gammon, Ariadna Gill, Timothy V Murphy, Gabirel Marantz, Bob Harris

Director: Ed Harris

Pollock, Harris’ first film as director, was a typical Indie - well enough made but minority interest and unlikely to draw mainstream audiences. Here, however, he shoots and scores three times, as director, co-writer (based on the novel by Robert B Parker) and star of this rousing ‘traditional’ Western which, aided and abetted by strong casting, well-chosen locations and Dean Semler’s evocative widescreen cinematography, is the best genre picture in recent years that has not been directed by Clint Eastwood.

Harris gets right down to business with the shooting, in New Mexico in 1882, of Appaloosa’s town marshal by ruthless rancher Irons (Irons, playing the Western villain to the manner born with just the right amount of cynicism and wearing the time-honoured black hat into the bargain). Enter ‘peacekeepers’ Harris and Mortensen who, hired by the terrified townspeople to bring Irons and his outlaw gang to book, do just that, a task somewhat complicated by Harris’ dalliance with prim newcomer Zellweger who turns out to be anything but the buttoned-up woman she seems to be…

Appaloosa appears as the archetypal Western frontier town down to the dusty main street down which – on cure – the villains ride into two for a Rio Bravo-style confrontation. Harris takes his time as director, playing fair with genre conventions, successfully establishing character and drawing fine performances from himself, Zellweger, Mortensen and other key players (including the director's father as a judge) and staging the action, gunplay and other confrontations with skill, in a thoroughly entertaining Western that enjoyably shows how the West was Wild.

Alan Frank

USA 2008. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 28 Sep 2008