"Appaloosa" is a film plagued with many problems. In an era where every Western almost yearns to be revisionist by playing on convention, Appaloosa is an anti-Western, anti-romance, anti-everything. It takes many liberties with what would be considered normal and none of them work because they seem to be done knowingly, not as a by-product of imaginative storytelling or good writing. The writing in fact is quite terrible – the many campy one-liners would be more fitting in the "Lone Ranger" than they are here, and the plotline, such as it is, skirts with themes you would find in much better, recent films – "Open Range's" excellent buddy duo fighting bad men, "3:10 to Yuma's" transportation of a known criminal – but to very little effect.
Ed Harris, in a fit of directorial hubris, casts himself over regular leading man Viggo Mortensen. The two are free-wheeling peacekeepers, working with their own coda, and one of their assignments takes them to the town called Appaloosa (curiously bereft of people and any sizeable number of houses – budget constraints perhaps). They are there to protect the territory from the badass Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons), but for all his sneering and snarling, Randall gets caught very early on and spends the better part of his screen time behind bars. Thrust between our noble heroes is the not so innocent damsel Allie French (annoying, pseudo-cutesy Renee Zellweger) who has trouble keeping track of which guy she's with. All of this is supposed to gel well, what will all the right ingredients in place and all, but Harris mixes things up to speed up certain sequences (the romance is literally thrust upon us within a few minutes of Allie's introduction) or drive them too slowly (the anti-climatic last act).
The film becomes truly disposable when you realize that all of this is just a half-baked mish mash of everything. It's as if Harris and screenwriter Knott were working off a checklist of elements from the Western genre, deciding to put all of them in, but never taking any one element to its full realization. The only thing that works (and never completely) is the rapport between the two leads. Far from being Butch and Sundance, they convince that they share a history and speak in gestures and not always words – though Mortensen is much better at playing second fiddle than Harris is at playing lead. If there is one thing to learn from watching Appaloosa it's that experimentation with film form doesn't always produce great films, it even results in certain deformities such as Appaloosa. - Faizan Rashid