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Authentic Western Vendetta
on 25 November 2012
The Hatfields and McCoys generated the saying, 'The real McCoy'. This is a hardened piece of genuine history. Two confederate soldiers in The Civil War; 'Devil' Anse Hatfield went AWOL leaving his friend Randall McCoy in a delicate situation with the Union army. The dispute carried on to land possession. The Hatfields settled in West Virginia and the McCoys nearby in Kentucky separated by the Tug River.
Hostilities grew rapidly between the families starting with the death of McCoys' brother Harmon at the hands of 'Uncle' Jim Vance, a vicious man brilliantly played by Tom Berenger, allied to disputes regarding land. This is the kick-start in much of the malignment between the families. The family leaders, Anse Hatfield (Kevin Kostner) and Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton), are expertly portrayed, decent men who become embroiled in an inflammatory family feud of hatred and revenge. Once the ball starts rolling, the clans recruit families, friends and neighbours into bloody confrontations. Shootings, reprisals, and revenge become paramount keeping upperhand position, largely borne by stubborness and vindictiveness from younger family acquaintances. What happened between two men exploded into the families. The death count climbs, needlessly, yet inevitable given the gung-ho attitude of the rival opponents who see the situation as a challenge between the families. Who is the bravest or best shot and how can we shoot the opposition under cover?
The women are strong. Sarah Parish as Levicy Hatfield and Mare Winningham as Sarah (Sally) McCoy are totally commited in support of their families, yet have to bear witness to their loved ones needlessly slaughterered. Their emotions are subdued yet eventually become apparent as the destruction of lives continues.
Johnse Hatfield (Matt Burr) is a loose cannon who thinks nothing in his often drunken state to inflame a potentially explosive situation with Roseanna McCoy, (Lindsay Pulsipher), with a pregnant outcome and later with her cousin Nancy (Jena Malone), a manipulative, devious woman who is not averse to provoking the rivalries for her own satisfaction.
As the death toll rises, the families end up forming posse-type clashes. Bounty hunters spring up including the brutal Frank Philips (Frank Howard) for the McCoys whilst Anse Hatfield retaliates with his own loyal group as they square up at the 'Battle of Grape Creek'. There is a feeling throughout this epic series that the main rivals are realising the futilty of a never-ending of conflict. Youth and loss of the real spleen-venting origins of the feud go by the by and are carried along as a run-of-the mill adventure until they are, or see their loved ones, killed. Putting a stop to it is another matter. Reconciliation of some form between the family heads is the only likely possibilty. Memories are long and carried beyond this mid-late 19th century confrontation. Policed by self-imposition, Anse's older brother Judge Hatfield (Powers Boothe) tries but is a sacrificial lamb.
This 2 DVD collection is split into 3 episodes ( originally five on channel 5 TV with dreaded adverts). Period, filmed in non-colour sepia tones ,(not black and white), reproduces the time. An authentic tobacco-spitting, shoot-up with pride and foolishness, some musical fiddling, lots of stubborness and stupidity by the men, borne on the shoulders and strengths of the matriarchs who really are the backbone of the others' frailties and they know it.
Extras are a featurette of 'The Making of the Hatfields and McCoys', and a music video featuring Kevin Costner and Modern West.
Loved every minute. Slow to start but the characters did need an introduction in view of the huge numbers in the families with the need to sort out who belongs to who on the two sides (beards, hats, horses and guns don't help). Given that, this is a wonderful working of real 'Cowboy Land' with acting and production values at the very top. Exremely entertaining and enjoyable.