I don’t actively go looking for this film, but when I come across it, I can ease into the action no matter where it is. This time around I woke up just after midnight and watched it from start to finish. I would have guessed Montana, but the action was actually filmed in Alberta, Canada.
“Open Range” is cowboy buddy film that goes well beyond the old black and white Hopalong Cassidy and John Wayne simplicity of the 1930s and 1940s tales of the old west and the improbable plots of the 1960s. It has the feel of Larry McMurtry and “Lonesome Dove,” especially with Robert Duval playing the lead of Boss Spearman. The buddy, Charlie Waite, is played by Kevin Costner. This is an excellent match up.
There is even a love interest with Annette Benning. This is the film that told me that Annette Benning was indeed an actress that could deliver a perfect, attention grabbing performance . . . even in a small part.
Sue Barlow: You know, I always hoped somebody gentle and caring might come along. Years pass. A small town and all. And your hopes begin to fade a little every day until you hardly remember what they were. I’ve seen who you are, Charley. The way you looked after that boy and the respect you give Boss. It might be little bits. But they’re enough for a woman who looks.
Basically, the action involves a range war. Rich man Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) has done well on the western plains since coming from Ireland. He’s done so well, he owns much of the land around the town that he pretty much owns as well, including the sheriff (played by James Russo). The “rich get richer,” but in this film the poor don’t want to get the “picture.” They want and expect their cattle to graze freely as prescribed by law. When Baxter has one of Boss’s and Waite’s trail hand buddies killed and another left for dead, the die is cast. Someone and his minions have to pay.
Denton Baxter: You’re nuthin’!
Boss Spearman: Maybe so, but I’ll still be breathin’ in another minute.
Boss Spearman: Man’s got a right to protect his property and his life, and we ain’t lettin’ no rancher or his lawman take either.
Charley: You the one killed our friend?
Butler: That’s right. I shot the boy, too. And I enjoyed it.
“Open Range” didn’t clean up on awards, but for more information visit IMDB – imdb.com/title/tt0316356
Lauran Paine wrote the book this movie is based on. He was also one of the writers on the film. He was born in 1916 and passed away in 2001. Paine wrote more than 1,000 books from Westerns to romance, science fiction, and mystery. He wrote under numerous names sometimes competing with himself for publication.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.