There was a time when the western was the most popular genre, when everyone dressed like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood for Halloween. They didn’t say a lot, letting their guns do most of the talking. Appaloosa is not one of those westerns.
Virgil (Ed Harris) and Everett (Viggo Mortensen) are peacemakers a.k.a. hired guns. Their latest commission involves bringing Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice for terrorizing the town and murdering the sheriff. Meanwhile, Allison (Renée Zellweger) rolls in on the train and captures Virgil’s heart. Unfortunately, her needs are not so easily satisfied. Of course, before the end, there are several shootouts and a rescue of the damsel in distress.
On the outside, it sounds like a fairly typical western; however, these cowboys spend a lot of their time talking and discussing their feelings. It’s too light to be a standard non-comedic genre flick but is in no way satirical or funny enough to fit the other categories. It’s an anomaly that comes up lame. Furthermore, the score sounds too contemporary for the era in which the film takes place.
Harris and Mortensen are decent cowboys but the intimacy of their relationship infringes on the masculinity typically associated with their character types. Virgil is consistently trying to sound more educated than he is but is unable to find the words and Everett is always there to fill in the blank and lend his guns. While it gives the pair more opportunity to act, it diverges from the genre expectations.
On the other hand, Zellweger’s character has more depth than the traditional love interest as well as more complicated motives. Although she still sports the cleavage of her predecessors.