It’s hard to explain the kind of bad that Appaloosa is, but it is cemented at the end of the film, during the credits. First, we get a nifty Tom Petty song. Then, a warbling, low, off-key Johnny Cash rip-off sung by none other than Appaloosa star, writer and director Ed Harris. Much is explained.
Harris has essentially made Kevin Costner’s Open Range, but a very bad version (and Open Range ain’t no masterpiece). Whereas Costner and Robert Duvall were authentic and had chemistry, Harris and his partner, Viggo Mortenson, are all about studied cool (Harris actually tells Mortenson that he is not as fast as Harris because he is “emotional”). Whereas Open Range sported an appropriately weather-beaten and weary Annette Bening as the love interest, in Appaloosa, we get Renee Zelwegger, who is quirky and hopelessly out-of-place. Whereas the villain in Open Range was the scene-chewing, vicious and bloody Irish cattle baron played by Michael Gambon, in Appaloosa, we get Jeremy Irons, who is of indeterminate origin, and who is a little more convincing as a gun hand than Don Knotts. Finally, Appaloosa is chock-full-of anachronistic dialogue, and much of the time, it is just plain boring. Whereas, Open Range managed to redeem some of its faults with crisp and thrilling scenes, such as the final shootout.