Viewing Report: Open Range
Although Open Range (2003) is made in the tradition of a classic Western, it questions the social and political aspect that often seems to define the western genre. The paradigm of the film sets out to give the “villainous” characters a chance to be heroes and have love and suggests that the law of the land, well, disrupts the land.
The title of the film gives reference to a time when cattle owners were still forcing free grazers from one open grazing area to another because not all land was homesteaded. Some enterprising farmers and cattle raisers, mainly Denton Baxter, filed homestead claims to own a specific area of land. Others, like Boss and Charlie, were free grazers who unsurprisingly clashed with the homesteaders. Instead of villainizing the free grazers, who are actually trespassing on homesteaders’ private property, they are the heroes of the film. Theoretically Baxter is the law. His wealth makes him essentially the most powerful and feared homesteader in Harmonville. This, by far, suggests why Baxter obtains the title as “villain.” He is the corruption of the town of which no one there wants him to be apart of.
The film gives an ironic sense of violence. It has its share of gun slinging but it is portrayed to be necessary in the makings of a hero. For example, the use of violence that Charlie displays is viewed as positive when used against evil forces that are threatening the community. Charlie’s professional background in the field of violence suggest that he is a cold blooded killer but his use of violence and skills elevate him to hero status. In addition to the unlikely “heroes,” the film gives the characters un-Western characteristics. Classic Westerns rarely have characters that profess their love when they are up against a force where the outcome is uncertain. The “hero” needs to be alone; he cannot risk love getting in the way of a man’s duty. However, Charlie confesses to Sue that he has feelings for her....
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