In the Dark

The Well-Holstered Gun

Open Range
Screenplay by Craig Storper from a novel by Lauran Paine
Produced and directed by Kevin Costner

The Western film genre has often been criticized for celebrating gun violence.  But mainstream oateaters often have more in common with the peace-loving Jane Austen than with the blood-besotted Sam Peckinpah.  My Darling Clementine, Shane, The Fastest Gun Alive, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and, most recently, Open Range all exemplify the principle announced so saucily in the opening sentence of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good gun must be in want of a wife.”  OK, I cheated a little.  Austen said “fortune,” not “gun.”  My adaptation is not without warrant, however.  In the American West of legend, a man’s fortune was often determined by how he chose to handle his gun.  

Consider the hero of the typical Western film.  He is an armed man in need of  feminine guidance.  Without such influence, he will be forever haunted by what he has already done with his six-shooter and tormented that he may do it again.  Although he uses his weapon skillfully and courageously, he too frequently uses it with wanton disregard for the mayhem it perpetrates.  With maturity, he...

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