Open Range

Open Range
Directed by Kevin Costner
Produced by Kevin Costner
Jake Eberts
David Valdes
Written by Craig Storper
Lauran Paine
Starring Robert Duvall
Kevin Costner
Annette Bening
Michael Gambon
Diego Luna
Abraham Benrubi
Michael Jeter
Cinematography J. Michael Muro
Studio TIG Productions
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Beacon Communications
Release date(s) August 15, 2003
Running time 139 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22,000,000
Box office $68,296,293 (worldwide)

Open Range is a 2003 American Western film co-starring, co-produced, and directed by Kevin Costner, based on the novel The Open Range Men by Lauran Paine. Starring alongside Costner are Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, and Michael Gambon.

The film received mostly positive reviews, and was a modest success at the box office, making about $58 million in the U.S. alone.



Open Range is a contemporary Western set in Montana in 1882 (the year is seen on a new grave marker) though the movie was filmed entirely on location in Alberta, Canada.[1]

The background of the movie concerns the "range wars" that occurred in the American West in the late 19th century. The "wars" pitted those that believed in the "Law of the Open Range" — free access to water and grass for everyone, against the "barbed wire" men — land barons, who used the new fencing to define their empire and block the free-range cattlemen from moving their herds.


"Boss" Spearman (Robert Duvall) is a free-range cattleman, who, with hired hands Charley Waite (Kevin Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi), Button (Diego Luna), and dog Tig are driving a herd cross country. Charley is a former soldier who fought in the Civil War and feels guilty over his past as a killer.

Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville for supplies. The town is controlled by a ruthless Irish immigrant land baron, Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), who hates free-rangers and treats the inhabitants like trash . Mose is badly beaten and then jailed by the town marshal, Poole (James Russo), whom Baxter "owns." Many townspeople accept that Baxter is all-powerful and corrupt while others harbor animosity towards him. The only friendly inhabitant they meet is Percy (Michael Jeter), a livery stable owner.

Boss and Charley become concerned when Mose doesn't return. They retrieve him from jail but not before getting a stern warning from Baxter about free-ranging on his land. Mose's injuries are so severe that Boss and Charley take him to Doc Barlow (Dean McDermott). There they meet Susan Barlow (Annette Bening). Charley is attracted immediately, but assumes that Susan is the doctor's wife.

It turns out that Baxter does not really want Boss to move on; he wants the herd. After catching masked riders scouting their cattle, Boss and Charley sneak up on their campfire in the dark of night. Baxter's henchmen are forced to strip and are sent back to town on foot. Another ambush, however, happening at the same time, results in the killing of Mose and the dog Tig. Button is badly injured and left for dead.

Charley and Boss vow to avenge this injustice. They leave Button at the doctor's house and go into town, where during a flash flood Charley saves a townsperson's dog. Boss and Charley are threatened by Poole but refuse to back down. Shortly thereafter, they lock Poole in his own jail. Boss knocks him out with chloroform he has stolen from the doctor's office. Other henchmen meet the same fate; they are locked up in Poole's cells and knocked out with the drug.

Charley and Boss psychologically prepare themselves for the upcoming battle. Charley learns that Sue is the doctor's sister, not his wife. Charley declares his feelings for her (at Boss's urging) and she gives him a locket for luck. In the town store, knowing that a bloody confrontation with Baxter is inevitable, Boss and Charley buy expensive cigars and chocolate, reasoning that they might be unable to enjoy these later. Charley leaves a note with Percy, the livery stable owner, in which he states that if he should die, money made from the sale of his saddle and gear are to be used to buy Sue a new tea set.

Outmanned in a gunfight, Boss and Charley are pitted against Baxter and his many henchmen. Charley doesn't wait to be drawn upon first, and shoots Butler (Kim Coates), the gunman who shot Button and killed Mose. The gunfight erupts and Boss is wounded. Some of Baxter's men flee as Charley guns them down one by one — Charley even manages to shoot Baxter himself early in the fight.

Rallied by Percy, the townspeople begin to openly fight against Baxter. Even the wounded Button stumbles out of his recovery bed in the doctor's house to fight with his friends. Baxter endangers innocent women and children to save himself after an intense firefight outside the jailhouse his henchmen all dead Baxter ends up wounded and alone, trapped in the jailhouse. Boss rushes the jail, mortally wounding Baxter. Boss stops just short of killing Baxter, stating that he wouldn't waste a bullet to ease Baxter's pain.

With the battle over, Charley witnesses the casualties: dead bodies, shaken innocent bystanders, and destroyed property. He speaks to Sue in private, telling her he must leave all this behind. She counters that she has a "big idea" about their future together and that she would wait for him to return.

Charley does return, proposing marriage to Sue. They embrace and kiss. Charley and Boss decide to give up the cattle business and settle down in Harmonville, taking over the saloon, whose owner (Baxter) was killed in the gunfight.

Main characters

  • Robert Duvall as Bluebonnet "Boss" Spearman is an aging cowboy and trail boss. He is an experienced cattleman, hard and a staunch traditionalist on the outside, but in fact a very caring man. He once had a wife and a child, but they contracted typhus and died, causing him to abandon his old life. He is beginning to realize that free-ranging is coming to an end, and thinks he might like to someday live in town and run a saloon.
  • Kevin Costner as Charles Travis "Charley" Postlewaite was a soldier during the Civil War and later a gunslinger. Having killed a man who tried to rape his mother, he soon became accustomed to killing people. He went to work for Boss Spearman under the name Charley Waite for more than ten years. The terrible things he and others did in the past continue to haunt his dreams. When he arrives in Harmonville, his past catches up with him, but he finds a chance for love and a future.
  • Annette Bening as Susan "Sue" Barlow is the sister and assistant of Harmonville's physician, Doc Barlow, and lives with him in a house with a white-picket fence on the edge of the town. She falls in love with Charley Waite when the free-rangers arrive with a badly hurt Button. She is a strong and righteous woman, daring to speak up against the tyrant Baxter and putting herself in danger to protect her patients on more than one occasion.
  • Michael Gambon as Denton Baxter is an Irish-born land baron who considers Harmonville "his" town and is the film's main antagonist. He uses his hired guns as well as the corrupt Marshall Poole to rule the town and keep off free-grazers. When he orders his men to ambush Boss Spearman's men, a brutal conflict begins, in which Baxter shows that he does not have a problem with putting women and children in the line of fire, finally turning most of Harmonville against him.
  • Michael Jeter as Percy runs Harmonville's livery stable. He warns Boss and Charley about Baxter's men and is the only townsman who stands with the free-rangers right from the beginning. Open Range would be Jeter's final onscreen role; the actor succumbed to an epileptic seizure on March 30, 2003.
  • Diego Luna as Button is Spearman's Mexican-born youngest hand and kind of a foster child to the other free-rangers who found him living on the streets years before. He is badly hurt by Baxter's men, but plays an important role in the final gunfight.
  • James Russo as Marshal Poole
  • Abraham Benrubi as Mose Harris is another of Spearman's hands, a large and peaceful man. He gets into a fight in Harmonville and is later killed by Baxter's henchman Butler. On the audio commentary for the Open Range DVD, Costner said that he cast Benrubi because he felt badly about having to cut the actor out of his previous film, The Postman, as he considered his to be one of the better performances in that film.
  • Dean McDermott as Doc Barlow
  • Kim Coates as Butler
  • Herb Kohler as Cafe Man
  • Peter MacNeill as Mack
  • Cliff Saunders as Ralph
  • Patricia Stutz as Ralph's Wife
  • Julian Richings as Wylie
  • Ian Tracey as Tom
  • Rod Wilson as Gus


The film received mostly positive reviews, receiving a "fresh" 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it "... an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western ..."[2] Peter Bradshaw of the The Guardian gave the film 4 stars out of 5, writing, "Duvall gives his best performance in ages" in a "... tough, muscular, satisfying movie."[3] The film won the 2004 Western Heritage Award, and was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award, an MTV Movie Award (Diego Luna), a Motion Picture Sound Editors Award as well as a Taurus Award for stunt artist Chad Camilleri. Open Range was selected 48th greatest western of all time by TimeOut London[4].

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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