Open Range (2003 film)

Open Range is a 2003 American Western film directed and co-produced by Kevin Costner, starring Robert Duvall and Costner, with Annette Bening, Michael Gambon, and Michael Jeter appearing in supporting roles. The film was the final on-screen appearance of Jeter, who died before it was released, and the film was dedicated to Jeter's memory, as well as to Costner's parents, Bill and Sharon.
The film was a box office success and was critically favored.


In Montana in 1882, "Boss" Spearman is an open range cattleman, who, with hired hands Charley, Mose, and Button, is driving a herd cross country. Charley is a former soldier who served in a "special squad" during the Civil War and feels guilty over his past as a killer of both enemy soldiers and civilians.
Boss sends Mose to the nearby town of Harmonville for supplies. The town is controlled by a ruthless Irish immigrant land baron, Denton Baxter, who hates open-rangers. Mose is badly beaten and jailed by the marshal, Poole. The only friendly inhabitant is Percy, a livery stable owner.
Boss and Charley become concerned when Mose does not return. They retrieve him from the jail but not before getting a warning from Baxter about free-grazing on his land. Mose's injuries are so severe that Boss and Charley take him to Doc Barlow. There they meet Sue Barlow. Charley is attracted immediately, but assumes that Sue is the doctor's wife.
After catching masked riders scouting their cattle, Boss and Charley sneak up on their campfire in the night, and disarm them. At the same time, another attack results in Mose's death. 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 they lock Poole in his own jail. Boss knocks him out with chloroform he has stolen from the doctor's office. The deputies are locked up as well.
Charley learns that Sue is the doctor's sister, not his wife. He declares his feelings for her, and she gives him a locket for luck. Charley leaves a note with Percy, in which he states that if he should die, money from the sale of his saddle and gear are to be used to buy Sue a new tea set, having accidentally destroyed her previous set during a "flashback" episode.
Boss and Charley are pitted against Baxter and his men. Charley shoots Butler, the gunman who shot Button and killed Mose. An intense gun battle erupts in the street, with Boss, Charley and Percy outnumbered before the townspeople begin to openly fight against Baxter. After an intense firefight, Baxter's men are dead and Baxter ends up wounded and alone, trapped in the jailhouse. Boss shoots open the jailhouse door and engages him in a brief close-quarters gunfight which leaves Baxter mortally wounded.
Sue's brother tends to the wounded townspeople and open-rangers. Charley speaks to Sue in private, telling her he must leave. She counters that she has a "big idea" about their future together and that she will wait for him to return. He does return, and proposes to Sue. Charley and Boss decide to give up the cattle business and settle down in Harmonville, taking over the saloon.



Kevin Costner grew up reading the western romance novels of Lauran Paine and Open Range is based on Paine's 1990 novel The Open Range Men. Screenwriter Craig Storper wanted to make a movie about "the evolution of violence in the West." Storper continues: "These characters don't seek violence... But the notion that it's sometimes necessary... is the Western's most fundamental ideal."


Robert Duvall was the only actor that Costner had in mind for the role of Boss Spearman. Costner said that if Duvall had turned down the part, he might not have made the movie at all. Duvall accepted the role immediately, and Costner gave him top billing. Duvall got bucked off a horse and broke six ribs while practicing his riding for this role.


, was hand-picked by director Kevin Costner for his work on Dances with Wolves.
The movie was filmed on location on the Stoney Indian Reserve in Alberta, Canada. Clayton Lefthand of the Stoney Sioux First Nations worked as a film liaison.
Filming took place from June 17, 2002 to September 8, 2002. Production spent over one million dollars to build a town from scratch because Costner didn't like any of the existing ones. This location was so far from civilization that they had to spend $40,000 to build a road to get there. Professional cowboys handled 225 head of cattle on the set.


Box office

Open Range was a success at the box office, making $14 million in its opening weekend in the U.S across 2,075 screens. Against a budget of $22 million it finished its theatrical run with $58.3 million in North America and $10 million from foreign markets for a total of $68.3 million worldwide.

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews, receiving a 79% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus states: "Greatly benefiting from the tremendous chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall, Open Range is a sturdy modern Western with classic roots." Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 stars out of 4, calling it "an imperfect but deeply involving and beautifully made Western". Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 4 stars out of 5, writing, "Duvall gives his best performance in ages" in a "tough, muscular, satisfying movie".
In particular, the gun fighting scenes were intentionally filmed in giant wide shots and were praised for their intense realism by a number of critics and yet were the reason the film earned an R rating. Kevin Carr of said on the gun action in Open Range: "After The Matrix redefined action in the late 1990s, every crummy action sequence tries to repeat the power of 'bullet time' often with little success. The action in Open Range is filmed real time, grabbing the audience and showing them that when this kind of stuff happens in real life, it happens faster than you think it would." A review on Moviola stated that the film has "one of the most exciting final gunfights ever filmed". IGN, USA Today, Total Film and Guns & Ammo all also say the shootout scene is one of the best of all time.


The film won the 2004 Western Heritage Award, and was nominated for a Golden Satellite Award, an MTV Movie Award, a Motion Picture Sound Editors Award as well as a Taurus Award for stunt artist Chad Camilleri. It was #48 in TimeOut London's "The 50 greatest westerns" list.