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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What's the story?
In OPEN RANGE, Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Kevin Costner) are decent men who have worked together for ten years, driving cattle across the prairie. Also working for Boss are Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and Button (Diego Luna), a teenager he took in as a young orphan. They come to an area they have been through before, but something has changed. A man named Baxter (Michael Gambon) now owns the land and most of the town, and he does not want cattle grazing on his land. The law is no help -- Baxter owns the whole town, including the sheriff. The nearest federal marshall is too far away to arrive in time to make a difference. Boss, Charley, and Baxter will have to sort it out themselves. When Baxter's men come after Mose and Button, Boss and Charley have to respond, not for their cattle or their fortunes, but because they cannot allow anyone to bully them. Townfolk are drawn into the conflict, including stable manager (Michael Jeter) and a doctor with a strong, brave sister (Annette Benning). Ultimately, there is a terrible conflict, but one that has been honestly earned by the characters and the story-tellers. The same can be said of the ultimate resolution.
Is it any good?
Open Range is an old-fashioned western that takes its time, but by the end of the movie the cattle, the characters, and the audience are all where they need to be. One thing this movie does well is showing us the way individuals struggle with the past and try to set a course for the future in a land where new physical and social structures are being created by people who came out west to get away from both. Stories set in the old west fascinate us because they take a group of people with no access to established civilization and give them a conflict to resolve.
Costner the director does well by his actors, particularly Duvall, and the shoot-out is tense and kinetic. The dialogue feels authentically old without being stilted. Today's audiences may get squirmy in the slow early stretches, but those who are patient will be rewarded with a respectful saga that pays tribute to America's past as a foundation for its future.
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