Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"Hatfields and McCoys" with Kevin Costner (2012)

I don’t think that there is anyone born in America who has not heard of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys; the iconic clan which had been fighting since the Civil War and well beyond into the last years of the 19th century. But, what most folks don’t know about; including me; is the history of the feud; that is, what started it all in the first place?

In this film; starring Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield; and Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy; will explain it all. In a three part series that is part truth and part drama, the cause is fixed at that point in the Civil War when Anse Hatfield decides to quit the battlefield and return home to the West Virginia border near Kentucky. He just can’t see the sense in fighting any longer. Little did he realize at the time that this decision would affect him, and his family, for decades to come.

The action begins on the battlefield when Anse leaves, infuriating Randall, who maintains that they have sworn an oath to fight to the death for the cause which is dying all around them. Anse wishes him luck, and at the point of a pistol, gallops off for home under the cover of night. When the war finally ends Randall comes home and rebuffs the entreaties of Anse, who has been making money selling timber. A simple encounter in the local bar between ignites the simmering feud, when two members of one clan murder the member of the other family over a slight stemming from that encounter.

Judge Valentine 'Wall' Hatfield, played by Powers Boothe, is the law in the hill country, and the feud between the two families begins to draw him into a confrontation which he knows will bring nothing but more heartbreak to an area which has suffered greatly during the War Between the States. The West Virginia border with Kentucky was a hotbed of disagreement over which side to support in the war, and of course, is why the Western part of Virginia broke away from Virginia when she seceded from the Union. A secessionist state within a secessionist state is never an easy place to live.

Thrown in with the history and fighting between the two families are the two young lovers, Johnse Hatfield, played by Matt Barr; and Roseanna McCoy, played with extra sweetness by Lindsay Pulsipher. Just as in Romeo and Juliet, these two youngsters are in love with one another and want to be married, against all the wishes of their respective families.

Tersely written and keenly directed, this film delivers on several fronts, including set design and costumes. Everything is in perfect order, with the characters all cast in a believable fashion.  At times it can be a bit confusing sorting out who is fighting whom, and for what, but overall that only adds to the insanity of a blood feud in the first place. And, for those who find this type of film unbelievable, just pick up the newspaper sometime and read about some of the “honor killings” which still go on today. It will make you scratch your head in bewilderment at how such things can still be in the 21st century.

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