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Appaloosa by Ed Harris This weekend Ed Harris’ adaptation of “Appaloosa” hits theaters in limited release.  The western is based on a 2005 Robert B. Parker novel.

The film is centered around Virgil Cole (Harris), a lawman, and his sidekick Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen). Cole and Hitch are hired to defend a 1880s lawless town from a murderous rancher, Randall Bragg (Irons). Their efforts are disrupted and their friendship is tested by the arrival of Allie French (Zellweger), an attractive widow.

“Appaloosa” is one of many adaptations that are being released in the fall/early winder season. We’ll be seeing the film this weekend at the ArcLight Hollywood, which will also feature a Q and A with Ed Harris, the film’s director/star. Phasekitty will be writing a book to film comparison early next week.

Appaloosa Book CoverCurrently I’m plowing through the 2005 Robert B. Parker novel which inspired the Ed Harris western due out September 17th. So far, I’m bowled over by how much this book reads like a classic western. When I settle down with this novel, I feel like I’m being transported to Monument Valley and reliving a John Ford film. I was astounded to find that this book was written just 3 years ago and not 50. It’s refreshing to see that it’s not just modern films that are reinventing the western (such as last year’s excellent 3:10 to Yuma), but novels as well.

I try not to let what I know about the film influence me while I read, but even without watching the trailer it’s sometimes hard to do. I picture Ed Harris while I read about the stoic Virgil Cole, while Everett, who tells the story, continually brings to mind Viggo Mortensen’s face. The only cast member I have yet to place is Jeremy Irons as the villain Bragg. For some reason, I can’t get the image of Lee Marvin out of my head, though I know that’s just from watching too many Ford westerns.

I’m excited to see Harris back behind the camera again, though the last film he helmed was not without its flaws. Pollock was superbly acted, but the story was inconsistent. Here Harris has great source material with a straight forward narrative and a very visual style. I can’t wait to see how he translates it to the screen.

For a full list of fall/early winter film adaptations, click here.