Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“Appaloosa” (-)

This Western, set in the 19th Century and based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, is not very good. Occasionally it is boring, and everyone I talked to agreed it was too long (1 hour 47 minutes).

Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his quiet, unassuming friend, Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), are hired lawmen. They are called to the frontier town of Appaloosa in the territory of New Mexico to assist its sheriff and town elders in coping with a vicious gang led by a rancher, Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons). When Allison French (Renee Zellweger) arrives in town looking to rent a hotel room, Virgil is immediately attracted to her. Asked by him if she is a whore, Allison states that she is a widow with only $1 to her name. The two begin an affair and soon plan to wed. Her simultaneous solicitation of Everett, however, belies her denial about her profession, although she may be an amateur.

Zellweger does little by way of acting, relying too often on her well-known smile to express her emotions. It doesn’t. Jeremy Irons, who is at his best in roles similar to that of Charles Ryder in “Brideshead Revisited,” is totally wasted in this film. The director of the film, Ed Harris, is very stoic in his role perhaps believing it would give the movie some heft and separate it from other westerns. I thought it was rather pretentious.

If you enjoy westerns and want to get away from it all, see this film. I must warn you, however, that on opening night the theater was only two-thirds full. Moviegoers may have learned via the grapevine that seeing “Appaloosa” would not be the best use of their time and money.

HS said: “This movie is a horse opera with modern affectations. I liked it because everybody speaks briefly (no soliloquies here), the cowboy accents are OK, the scenery is rugged yet beautiful and the horses are particularly good looking. In fact, the movie is named for a breed of horse, unusual because of its spots and splashes of color.

“Renee Zellweger arrives in town by train with just a dollar and a dream. The ups and downs do not merit extensive description. If there is a cliché that was missed, that was not intentional. Gunfights galore. If Ed Harris were not very quick on the draw, there would be no movie. As an uncivilized American, I enjoyed it although I can’t say it didn’t drag a bit. There are better pictures, but there are many that are far worse.”