New on DVD: Appaloosa

The Western was once one of the most popular film genres. The men were strong and silent and the women were submissive and emotional. Appaloosa is not one of those Westerns. Virgil (Ed Harris) and Everett (Viggo Mortensen) are peacemakers – a.k.a. hired guns. Their latest commission involves bringing the swaggering Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to […]


The Western was once one of the most popular film genres. The men were strong and silent and the women were submissive and emotional. Appaloosa is not one of those Westerns.

Virgil (Ed Harris) and Everett (Viggo Mortensen) are peacemakers – a.k.a. hired guns. Their latest commission involves bringing the swaggering Bragg (Jeremy Irons) to justice for terrorizing the town and murdering the sheriff. Meanwhile, Allison (Renée Zellweger) rolls in on the train and captures Virgil’s heart. Unfortunately, her needs are not so easily satisfied. Of course, before the end, there are several shootouts and a rescue of the damsel in distress.

On the outside, it sounds like a fairly typical Western; however, these cowboys spend a lot of their time talking and discussing their feelings. It’s too light to be a standard non-comedic genre flick but is in no way satirical or funny enough to fit the other categories. It’s an anomaly that comes up somewhat lame. Furthermore, the score sounds too contemporary for the era in which the film takes place.

Harris and Mortensen are decent cowboys but the intimacy of their relationship infringes on the masculinity typically associated with their character types. While it gives the pair more opportunity to act, it diverges from the genre expectations.

On the other hand, Zellweger’s character has more depth than the traditional love interest as well as more complicated motives. Although she still occasionally sports the cleavage of her predecessors.

There are numerous DVD special features that will appeal to the Western fan. Four featurettes explore the particular aspects of the picture: “Bringing the characters of Appaloosa to life;” “Historic accuracy of Appaloosa;” “The town of Appaloosa;” and “Dean Semler’s return to the Western.” The latter is about the director of photography. There are also six deleted scenes that can be played with or without by director/writer/producer Harris and writer/producer Robert Knott; as well as feature commentary by the same.