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'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1' review: Kevin Costner’s western series gets off to sluggish start

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

 

Much has been made about Kevin Costner self-financing his four-part Western “Horizon: An American Saga.” The “Yellowstone” star put up a sizable amount of his own cash (alongside third party investors and selling the films global rights) to try and make up for how the Hollywood studio system doesn’t see monetary value in the genre that once made John Wayne a household name and instant icon. But Costner had been gestating on this project for a long time and, as the old saying goes, if you can’t get someone to do it, then do it yourself. And I would argue nobody has done more for this dying genre than Costner has, but one has to wonder if his latest, what will eventually be, 12-hour saga was the way to keep slowly stoking the flames. 


“Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter One” (part two is due out in less than two months on August 16th), is episodic in nature and by default ends up feeling like a television show that A) doesn’t quite know where it’s headed and is B) very underwhelming. It’s broken up into spurts, and tests the durability of the audience's bladders with a nearly three hour run time that establishes the story and the characters, but not much resolution. Which makes this hard to review considering there’s three parts still to come (only the second installment has been filmed with chapter three still looking for more financing) and the film ends with a little teaser of what’s coming in Chapter Two. It’s a strange release strategy, but I admire the gamble. 


On the merits of “Chapter One,” I’m not even sure audiences will show up for the rest, though Costner is betting (and hoping) they do. But even with the Oscar winning director, who also produced, co-wrote and stars, pouring his heart and soul into every frame of the picture, it’s, at best, a throwback to the old days of Hollywood movie making, complete with an amazing John Debney score, and sweeping, sometimes intoxicating images of the Utah countryside where most of the movie was shot. 


At its worst, “Horizon” tells such a massive story that this inaugural chapter feels especially weak, introducing several characters and plots without connecting them. Costner himself (the man everyone has come to see and who has been promoting the movie non-stop) doesn’t even show up until an hour into the movie playing another character in his own, gigantic canvas. 


The “saga” begins in 1859, the name “Horizon” belongs to a settlement being sold as the last remnants of what the American dream stands for as rabid Native-Americans brutally slay those who try to dwell on their homesteads. In Wyoming, Costner plays a gruffled cowboy/cattle wrangler who finds himself entangled within a dispute involving a woman, Marigold (Abby Lee) and her young child, forcing them to go on the run. 


The cast includes an ensemble of riches, including past Costner co-starts Will Patton, Jeff Fahey, and James Russo. Sienna Miller (whose character, despite living in the wild west, always looks like a million bucks with lush, perfect eyebrows), Luke Wilson, Sam Worthington, an Irish-accented Michael Rooker, and Jamie Camble Bower round out the cast as various generals, outlaws, and prospectors.  


Costner, who stepped aside from his “Yellowstone” commitments in a testy legal battle, to usher this saga to its completion, attempts to offer a first-person perspective of the vitriol and hatred both Native Americans and the Chinese endured on the cusp of the Civil War (a rarity in most commercial movies let alone westerns). But it’s also so scarcely put together, you wonder why the multi-hyphenate filmmaker didn’t try to scale it down and make it more approachable. I left feeling minimal connections to the characters, the locations, and the mini-breadcrumbs of ensuring conflict, aside from Costner’s storyline which, judging by the preview of the sequel, looks to have the most brevity. 


Even then you have to ask yourself what that commitment is worth. If Costner was smart, he would try and repurpose the ensuring three installments for the small screen, because it’s obvious within the first twenty minutes that’s what needed to happen. However, if anyone has earned the right to upend conventions when it comes to this genre (dating back to his role in “Silverado”), it’s Costner. He’s amassed enough goodwill, that I’d take a floater on “Chapter Two” with the optimism things might improve, but my patience, especially after this long “Chapter One” trek, is wearing thin. 


Grade: C- 


HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA - CHAPTER ONE is now playing in theaters



2 comments

2 Comments


defeated hapless
defeated hapless
Jul 08

Putting off this endeavor for a long time, Costner believed that if you can't get someone to do something, you should do it yourself. Although I believe that no one has contributed more to this genre than Costner, one has to question whether his most recent project, a 12-hour epic that will finally come to an end, was the best approach to gradually fan the fires.  foodle


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Dingoal Warlocket
Dingoal Warlocket
Jul 03

He has accumulated a sufficient amount of geometry dash positive reputation, which makes me willing to take a chance on "Chapter Two" with the hope that things can get better. However, my patience is starting to diminish, particularly after enduring the lengthy journey of "Chapter One."

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