The rise and fall of Kevin Costner has been well documented and probably also well deserved. After directing one of the most powerful films I have ever seen (Dances With Wolves) and putting out a couple of other decent films like JFK, The Untouchables, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham and the mildly entertaining Robin Hood, Costner went on to put out some of the most unforgivable films made in recent history. Films like Waterworld, The Postman, and Wyatt Earp almost completely destroyed his reputation and credibility.
In more recent years, many have turned a blind eye to some semi-respectable offerings from Costner. Films like For the Love of the Game, Message in a Bottle and 13 Days didn’t win any Oscars, but they were good enough to give me a slight glimmer of hope in this once brilliant filmmaker. Open Range looks like it COULD be the project that returns Costner to the realm of respectability.
There are a couple of reasons I think this movie has a chance:
1) Costner is going back to a western. Costner has a winner under his belt in the western genre already with Dances with Wolves. Going back to a genre he’s displayed some comfort in could go a long way.
2) Robert Duvall. Duvall brings a presence to a movie like few actors do. He carries a strength and power that draws you into whatever story he’s telling, even if it’s sometimes a bad story. Having a bigger name than Costner in the film was a brilliant move.
3) The setting itself is a character. Many movies take place in beautiful settings, but few movies actually allow the setting to take on a life of its own and play an important part of the story, almost like it’s a character. Lawrence of Arabia did it, Dances with Wolves did it, The Godfathers did it and it looks like Open Range will do it as well.
IF this film works, it will reintroduce Costner as a legitimate star. If it doesn’t work… well… I doubt anyone will ever take him seriously again. I know I won’t.