"Devil" Anse Hatfield played by Kevin Costner [also joint producer] and Randall McCoy played by Bill Paxton return by different routes and for different reasons from the bloody Civil War where they had been comrades in battle; looking out for each other. They desire peaceful lives to develop and expand their family businesses, but this is not to be. Like many monumental fall outs their feud starts with a misunderstanding and then an attempted crooked business deal prompted by McCoy's self seeking and loathsome lawyer ads fuel to the flames. Matters escalate with killings and retribution beatings on both sides until the war between the families is out of control. There is, as with any good story, a love interest: can a young Hatfield marry a McCoy? Apparently not. This true life feud goes on for 30 plus years and has become part of American history. "Going at it like the Hatfields and McCoys" after over 100 years is still part of their lexicon to describe any bitter disagreement. The acting of all concerned is beyond reproach and a special mention for Mr. Costner's best performance for many years. It is gritty, cruel and violent and to tell this tale it could be no other way. The effects are clever and the scenery stunning even although it was shot in Romania to give the appearance of wild, open space, authentic 19th.century eastern USA. At just over four and a half hours it splits nicely into 3 parts or if you are as engrossed as I was, will be watched in one sitting. It is a quality realistic production of a standard way beyond the usual mini series genre.
It seems like every time I see one of these movies, Jim Vance (Tom Berenger) is always the bad guy. Clocking in at just under five hours, one must make time to watch this film which is not as much fun as LOTR or the "Star Wars" saga. I enjoy watching histories when they are not too long. Clearly this could have been condensed with some of the opening Civil War scenes edited except for the fact Civil War pictures are popular.
I almost turned it off when 'Devil' Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner) said "brain pan." I also didn't like Bill Paxton's portrayal of Randall McCoy. I thought much of the supporting cast was excellent. This version appears to be one Charles Beard might have written as the origins of the feud is economic. As a history, this was far superior to the version with Christian Slater, but then what isn't better without Christian Slater in it? This is a History Channel presentation, where unfortunately history occasional gets sold out for ratings.
PARENTAL GUIDE: 2 f-bombs, Rear nudity. Couples in bed. Prostitution.
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.