Stream On: Revisionist and neo-Westerns from Kevin Costner

By on June 10, 2021

“Boss” Spearman and Charley, a Civil War veteran with “soldier’s heart” (what we now call PTSD), are open-range cattle drovers that tangle with a land baron who hates “free-grazers.” (IMDb.com)

Kevin Costner loves Westerns, perhaps even more than baseball movies. He was born in California, and grew up in Compton, but at the age of seven he saw the 1962 film How the West Was Won (streaming here), and later said that that film “formed” his childhood. Today he lives on a ranch in Colorado.

He appeared in his first Western, Lawrence Kasdan’s 1985 Silverado (streaming here), two years before his breakout role as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables (streaming), and hasn’t looked back, directing and producing several himself, including the almost-Western Hatfields & McCoys (Stream On) miniseries. This week we’ll look at one Western that he directed, and his current Paramount TV series.

OPEN RANGE [IMDb.com] [trailer]

[Amazon.com; Prime Video; elsewhere] 2003 [R]

The Revisionist Western is a subgenre that subverts the standard format of the Western. The traditional Western follows a standard format centered around a strong, male lead character who leads the forces of a civilized people against the uncivilized forces that stand in their way. This pitted the “good guys,” usually lawmen, against the “bad guys,” usually criminals or Native Americans.

In Open Range we have four outcasts: a free-grazer cattle drover, Boss, who, while remaining on the right side of the common law of grazing, finds himself, his crew and his roving herd of cattle on the wrong side of the court of public opinion, especially that of a landowner and his corrupt marshall. Boss’s crew comprises Charley Waite, a Civil-War veteran and ex-gunslinger haunted by a violent past; Mose, a slow-witted but hardy cowhand; and Button, a Mexican Indian teenager rescued from the streets by Boss.

Open Range begins idyllically, with Boss (Robert Duvall, The Godfather, Lonesome Dove), Charlie (Costner), Mose (Abraham Benrubi, Bosch) and Button (Diego Luna, Narcos: Mexico), moving a cattle herd across beautiful vistas to a stirring musical score. Their supply wagon runs into a ditch and they must camp while they unstick it. Mose, a good-natured bear of a man, and Button horse around with camp tasks while Boss and Charlie pull the wagon out and round up their horses.

When Mose is sent into a nearby town for supplies as they prepare to move out, he runs into trouble with the land baron’s crew, which by movie’s end culminates in a chaotic shootout in the town that’s notable for its credibility: very few of the combatants (save Charley) actually hit what they’re shooting at.

Annette Bening plays a once-in-a-lifetime shot at redemption for Charley, and Kim Coates is a gunman with talents roughly equivalent to Charley’s who is employed by the land baron. 79% critics and 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

YELLOWSTONE [official site] [trailer]

[Amazon.com; Prime Video; elsewhere] 2018- [TVMA]

Rip Wheeler, left, is the ranch foreman at the largest contiguous ranch in the country, and land-baron John Dutton’s right-hand man and enforcer. They face threats from a bordering Native reservation, developers, and America’s first national park. (IMDb.com)

Imagine, if you will, Bonanza’s Ben Cartwright crossed with Tony Soprano. Set in contemporary Montana, Yellowstone is the saga of the fictional Yellowstone/Dutton ranch, the largest ranch in the country, and the dysfunctional Dutton family, headed by John Dutton (Costner), another ruthless land baron seeking to preserve his ranch and legacy for his children, all of whom have heavy baggage of their own. His antagonists are the ambitious new chairman of an adjacent Native reservation, Thomas Rainwater; a developer who wants a piece if not more of Dutton’s land; America’s first national park; and his own children.

One son, Kayce (Luke Grimes, American Sniper), has married a Native girl and lives with her and their son on the reservation; he’s a horse trainer. He feels as if he’s fallen between two stools: he’s not unwelcome on the “rez,” but at the end of the day he’s not one of them; still, he doesn’t want to live on the ranch. Dutton’s daughter Beth (Kelly Reilly) had been in Salt Lake City, handling mergers and acquisitions for a huge bank; she recently moved back to the ranch to help her father, but she’s a roaring alcoholic. Dutton’s son Jamie (Wes Bentley, American Beauty) is the ranch’s legal counsel; he wants to run for office, but Dutton resents the time that takes from the ranch. Dutton’s oldest son Lee (Dave Annable) is the Dutton ranch head of security and an agent of the Montana Livestock Commission.

We also spend time in the bunkhouse of the ranch, which Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser), Dutton’s ranch foreman and enforcer, runs, and meet the cowboys and see some unique recruitment techniques. Two new hands sign up in the early seasons; one is the petty criminal son of a friend of Dutton’s, who is as much a cowboy as I am—he serves as an audience proxy for the bunkhouse as he learns on the job.

The first conflict we see is triggered by a herd of Dutton’s cattle wandering onto the reservation. He notices some fencing is missing, and the tribe claims the cows as their own. When Dutton sends cattle agents including his son Lee to the res to collect them (Dutton is Montana Livestock Commissioner) a deadly firefight erupts between the agents and the reservation police.

Yellowstone is a compelling epic ensemble saga from the bunkhouse to the boardroom featuring family drama, political struggles, and hostile takeovers, against the backdrop of the magnificent vistas and big sky of Montana. In its scope it really is like The Sopranos with cowboys and Indians.

Next time, Mile-high Bob Denver: Dobie Gillis and Gilligan’s Island.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers.


Barnhill Building Group has been selected as the Construction Manager @ Risk by the College of the Albemarle and is seeking to pre-qualify construction trade contractors to submit bids for the furnishing labor, materials, equipment, and tools for the new College of The Albemarle – Allied Health Sciences Simulation Lab (COA Health Sciences) located in Elizabeth City, NC. Please note: Only subcontractors who have been prequalified by Barnhill will be able to submit a Bid.

The project consists of the new construction of a 38,000-sf, 2-story expansion to the existing Owens Health Sciences Center and will house classrooms, labs, and a simulation lab. The site is just over just over 4.5 acres and is located on an active campus. This new construction will be a steel structure with a brick and metal panel veneer, curtainwall, and storefront glazing with a PVC roof membrane.

Principal trade and specialty contractors are solicited for the following Bid Packages:

BP0100: General Trades

BP0105: Final Cleaning

BP0390: Turnkey Concrete

BP0400: Turnkey Masonry

BP0500: Structural Steel & Misc. Steel

BP0740: Roofing

BP0750: Metal Panels

BP0790: Caulking / Caulking

BP0800: Turnkey Doors/Frames/Hardware

BP0840: Glass & Glazing

BP0925: Drywall

BP0960: Resilient Flooring

BP0980: Acoustical Ceilings

BP0990: Painting & Wallcovering

BP1005: Toilet Specialties / Accessories / Division 10

BP1010: Signage

BP1098: Demountable Partitions

BP1230: Finish Carpentry and Casework

BP1250: Window Treatment

BP1400: Elevators

BP2100: Fire Protection

BP2200: Plumbing

BP2300: HVAC

BP2600: Turnkey Electrical

BP3100: Turnkey Sitework

BP3290: Landscaping

Packages may be added and/or deleted at the discretion of the Construction Manager. Historically underutilized business firms are encouraged to complete participation submittals.

HUB/MWBE OUTREACH MEETING: Barnhill Building Group will be conducting a HUB/MWBE Informational Session. You are encouraged to attend the following session to learn more about project participation opportunities available to you. These seminars will help to: Learn about project and scope; Inform and train Minority/HUB contractors in preparation for bidding this project; Assist in registration on the State of North Carolina Vendor link; Stimulate opportunities for Networking with other firms. Location and time TBD. Please visit our planroom at https://app.buildingconnected.com/public/54da832ce3edb5050017438b for more information.

Interested contractors should submit their completed prequalification submittals, by July 22, 2024, to Meredith Terrell at mterrell@barnhillcontracting.com or hardcopies can be mailed to Barnhill Contracting Company PO Box 31765 Raleigh, NC 27622 (4325 Pleasant Valley Road, NC 27612).


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