Keith’s Movie Korner: Costner’s ego pollutes ‘Horizon: An American Saga-Chapter 1’

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

Kevin Costner is back in the saddle, literally and figuratively, directing and starring in the first of four planned films. “Horizon: An American Saga-Chapter 1” is a sprawling western with a giant scope that runs just over three hours, and the audience feels every minute. There are about five different films crammed into this one with each storyline plodding at a snail’s pace.

Spanning the years from 1859 to 1865 (Civil War timeframe), the trials and tribulations of American pioneers and Native Americans are depicted as the expansion to the Old West is fully underway. Frances Kittredge (Sienna Miller) is a wife and mother whose life is turned upside down, and she must adapt to survive. Pionsenay (Owen Crow Shoe) is part of an Apache tribe that has been killing and burning every new settlement that pops up to discourage settlers from their hunting grounds. Hayes Ellison (Kevin Costner) is a frontiersman who finds himself protecting a damsel in distress and a young child, placing a target on his own back. These are just a few of the people across different western territories with a different set of circumstances driven by a common theme, to reach the town of Horizon with its promises of land and abundance.

From the dragged-out tedium of each storyline to the horribly written dialogue to the amateurish acting performances, this has made-for-TV written all over it. Kevin Costner is far removed from his Oscar winning western “Dances with Wolves” (1990). In fact, his last two directorial efforts, “The Postman” (1997) and “Open Range” (2003), were both sleep inducing busts. Unfortunately, he hasn’t seemed to learn anything from those failures, once again crafting an overly long saga inserting unimportant details, conversations, and events that do not progress the multiple storylines. It’s as bad as watching a tumbleweed that gets smashed by a wagon.

Costner creates so many storylines and subplots that it does make it difficult to keep track of everything, and the constant harsh transitions does not lessen the confusion. Even the limited scenes of action cannot drum up much in the way of excitement with a lot of it happening off camera. Those battle moments that do occur on camera come across as cheap and unprofessional with actors reacting to being struck before the strike actually connects. While there are plenty of beautiful vista shots to that capture the essence of the western frontier, it is not enough to make up for the shoddy quality and effort of the overall production. Costner forking over tens of millions of dollars out of his own pocket to finance this project is admirable but ultimately a waste of money. Having such a massive plan that encompasses four films makes this lack of quality inexcusable.

This is one of the worst cast films for a major motion picture in a long time, which only magnifies the poorly written dialogue. With an overly ambitious scope, it requires an extremely large cast, making it impossibly difficult to find enough solid talent without substantially increasing the budget. Hence there are a lot of inexperienced actors and actresses who either overact their parts or are simply unable to get into character well enough to be believable. The veteran performers of this cast fail to connect to their characters themselves, like Luke Wilson or Sam Worthington. Even Costner himself seems to phone it in, unable to tap into that charisma that made “Yellowstone” one of the better western shows made.

If “Horizon: An American Saga-Chapter 1” is any indication, the next three films will be a drudgery to watch. It’s doubtful the poor box office showing will diminish Costner’s massive ego, but it will definitely diminish his wallet. For those who suffer through this slog of a movie and have any remaining desire to see where it goes from here, “Chapter 2” will release in August…good luck.

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July 2024