Based on the novel “The Open Range Men” by Lauran Paine, Charley is a free ranger along with his superior whom he calls boss; the two friends are teamed with two other young employees and live a simple life out on the open range as nomads herding cows for a living until one of the young employees is badly beaten and imprisoned in a town. When Charley and Boss go to retrieve him they come across a crooked Marshall and town mayor and upon their arrival to their campground, they’re soon being watched and stalked by masked men upon their return to their home, but when Charley and boss decide to take it upon themselves to stop the stalkers, they return to their home ravaged beyond belief and their friends hurt badly.
Angered by their friends ambush they go into town and decide to take vengeance by taking on the entire town and its crooked Marshall who is intent on jailing the two, but as Charley romances a local nurse and boss begins to desire for a better life, they decide to take one last stand and avenge their friends once and for all. Kevin Costner delivers a good old western film filled with class, sophistication and one hell of a story. Costner, who also directs, never hogs the screen, doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, and weighs a large amount of the film solely on Robert Duvall’s acting skills. Legendary actor Duvall gives an Oscar worthy performance as leader of the pack of free rangers who decides to take vengeance once and for all after being violated by bandits.
What make this movie such an incredible piece of work is the performances by Duvall and Costner. They have excellent chemistry on screen and look as if they’ve been friends for years. They use that sentiment to their advantage and play off one another’s emotions and pain and manage to become a duo to reckon with. It doesn’t hurt that their characters are truly likable as well. Though, during the last half of the film he does decide to take it upon himself and start making his voice heard through surprising actions in character, and it’s worth watching. With the two great leading characters there is also great character Susey played by Annette Benning; the local nurse whom soon begins to fall in love with Charley and watch the carnage take place before her.
The film dabbles upon the question of vengeance; how thin a line is there between justice and vengeance, vengeance and murder? How can you push a man before he becomes murderer? How far can you run from your past until it catches up with you? Such are questions posed to both Charley and boss during the film as they soon become conflicted with their friends’ injuries and must bring up old demons from the past to fuel their hunger for justice. Costner creates a truly heartfelt and charming western, never drawing too much attention to himself with low-key and skilled directing, he manages to create an unbelievable old-fashioned western for movie-lovers everywhere.