Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen are convincingly badass as a couple hired guns who come to the aid of a small town in New Mexico territory that's threatened by a corrupt, murderous rancher. Jeremy Irons oozes menace as the bad guy, and the hatchet-faced Renée Zellweger isn't completely awful as the default love interest, the only woman in this tiny shit-town who isn't a whore. (...Or is she?) Adapted from one of Robert B. Parker's eleventy-thousand novels, Appaloosa contains enough guns, horses, and billowing clouds of dust to populate every Western for the next 10 years.
You've seen this movie before, but it's a really good one, with terrific performances all around, especially the wisecracking Harris and the oily, note-perfect Irons. Harris' straightforward direction doesn't linger on unnecessary violence, but there's plenty to get riled up about. It's a pleasure to watch Harris and Mortensen gently bicker before blasting their opponents into oblivion, and it's even more fun to watch the twists and double-crosses play out on the gunfield. If There Will Be Blood reframed the way in which movies tell the story of the American West, Appaloosa injects all the fun back into the Western genre, complete with boots, grit, and plenty of tough talkin'.