Opens at Pacific Place and other theaters, Fri., Oct. 3. Rated R. 116 minutes.
Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) are the new marshal and deputy facing down a posse of bad guys in Appaloosa, New Mexico, circa 1882, in Harris' latest directorial effort. Appaloosa has the shifting boundaries of friendship and love on its mind, but this isn't a movie likely to raise comparisons to the tortured revisionism of Unforgiven, or even to last year's hyperactive shoot-'em-up, 3:10 to Yuma—and that's surely fine by Harris. He and his collaborators are playing it straight with a timeless male fantasy—horse, hat, six-shooter—a traditional approach that will please moviegoers like my dad and yours: men who walked out of No Country for Old Men puzzled, feeling like they'd been cheated out of a climactic gun battle between lawman and villain. Harris keeps the shootouts coming—there's even a run-in with some canny Indians—but in this efficient Western, there are no close-ups of shifting eyes and nervous trigger fingers, just sudden, over-in-a-blink violence. Truth be told, it probably wouldn't have killed the director to belabor the tension a little more, but hey, real men don't drag things out.