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The Razz: Movie reviews: Costner's firing life back into Westerns; OPEN RANGE HHHHI 15.

Byline: ALAN MORRISON

WHEN Clint Eastwood fired his last shots in Unforgiven, most people thought the Western had finally said everything it needed to say.

That, however, was underestimating this most cinematic of film genres. You just can't keep a good cowboy down.

With The Missing behind us and The Alamo still to come, 2004 is shaping up as the year the horse opera rode back into town. And if any Hollywood actor was going to jump back into the saddle, it was sure to be Kevin Costner.

He had already breathed in the dust of the Wild West in Silverado, Wyatt Earp and Dances With Wolves.

It's never easy to predict if Costner will sink or swim and no-one has quite forgiven him for Waterworld or The Postman. It's a pleasure to report, therefore, that Open Range is Costner at his best as actor and director.

This is one to notch up on the CV alongside JFK, Bull Durham, The Untouchables and Thirteen Days.

The story is extremely simple (and not a kick in the pants off Unforgiven), based on the tried-and-tested battle between the cowboys and ranchers.

Charley Waite (Costner), Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and their team enjoy the freedom of the open range, driving their cattle from one place to the other.

But when they enter territory ruled by Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), an insult escalates into a brawl that leads to murder then a life-or-death battle for their very existence.

Costner the director takes his time getting to the final showdown but when he does, our patience is rewarded as the rifles roar and every gunshot packs a deadly punch.

The slow pace also allows a note of genuine affection and respect to emerge between Charley and Boss, a relationship that's stronger than the romance between Charley and the doctor's sister Sue Barlow (Annette Bening).

Almost every element here is as familiar as a six-shooter and a ten-gallon hat but that's the point.

Open Range is an old-fashioned Western in a pure, traditional, widescreen, cinematic form. Costner still makes 'em like they used to.

CAPTION(S):

TOP FORM: Kevin Costner; HOT SHOT: Michael Gambon
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 19, 2004
Words:358
Previous Article:The Razz: Movie reviews: Box Office: We rate the movies that are on at the cinema this week.
Next Article:The Razz: Movie reviews: CARNAGES.


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