Open Range

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 5)
Japanese title: Wild Range
Director: Kevin Costner
Running time: 140 minutes
Language: English
Opens July 3
[See Japan Times movie listings]

There was a point -- probably somewhere between "Bad Girls" and "The Quick And The Dead" -- where I felt like I never needed to see another western. And there was definitely a point -- somewhere between "Waterworld" and "The Postman" -- where I knew I didn't need to see any more of Kevin Costner.

This week's review, then, is a case of eating some serious crow. "Open Range" features both cowboys and Costner, and it ain't half bad. It's a film with virtually no surprises; you can count the genre cliches piling up like scouts on a schoolgirl in Shibuya. But despite its utter conservatism, it does what it does exceptionally well, kind of like a '90s Bob Dylan album: all craft, less inspiration, but still worth a spin.

Set in 1882, "Open Range" captures that period of history, beloved of filmmakers, where the rugged individualist lifestyle of small-scale ranchers and cowboys was giving way to ruthlessly monopolistic cattlemen and rail barons. (See "The Hi-Lo Country," "All The Pretty Horses," et al.) Costner, who also directed the film, taps into the western's most enduring myth, that of the loner who stands up and fights for what he feels is right, even in the face of seemingly overwhelming force arrayed against him.