Spent some evenings last week watching the 3 episode miniseries that the History Channel produced last year, Hatfields & McCoys, via Netflix. This was one of those Kevin Costner things where he looks all grim and conflicted the entire time; lots of beards, lots of spittin’. As it’s sort of a Western in a way, it isn’t too bad. Costner tends to do pretty well with Westerns (though I found his 1994 version of Wyatt Earp to be pretty much unwatchable). People must have liked it, because word on the street is that “the show set a cable viewing record as the top-rated entertainment telecast ever for ad-supported basic cable.” That’s pretty impressive.
The story is of course about the infamous feud between two Appalachian families back in the days just after the Civil War, the Hatfields and the McCoys. I’m no scholar of exactly what went down, but it’s clear there are some liberties taken in this version, even if they are based in events that actually happened. It’s still fascinating, and makes me want to know more about what really happened. The miniseries essentially roots the feud in a combination of events, the crux being a disagreement between the two family patriarchs, Devil Anse Hatfield and Randolph McCoy, over when it’s okay to haul ass and abandon a lost cause on the battlefield (i.e. Hatfield says, “Screw this, I’m going home!” and bails on the Confederate army, while McCoy stays on). Other stuff happens, people are stubborn, teenagers get naked together, and hot lead is exchanged.
I didn’t think much of the first episode. I found the writing to be pretty lame in parts, with too much cliche’ and melodrama. In fact, if it’d been entirely up to me I might not have watched it beyond that. But I allowed myself to be talked into watching the rest, and I’m glad I did, because it got better. Not great, but worth watching. None of the characters were particularly likable, and everyone was pretty much a hard-headed dumbass, but I suspect it takes a few of those to pull off a blood feud in the first place. I thought the best actor in the bunch was Tom Berenger as Jim Vance, Devil Anse Hatfield’s older brother, and something of a loose cannon and instigator of violence. I’ve always been a fan of Berenger, and he does a great job in this show. It was great to see him delivering the goods again. The main stars, Coster (as Hatfield) and Bill Pullman (as Randolph McCoy) inhabit their roles just fine as well. It’s worth watching, if you’re into this kind of thing. I’d give it a solid B- or so. Not spectacular, but I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time watching it.
One other thing of interest: it was filmed in Romania. Romania is obviously beautiful. Julia (who used to train horses for a living, as well as do all that fancy shmancy show jumping) says Pullman’s inability to ride made him hard to watch, and that Costner, for all the cowboy movies he’s done, should be able to ride better. In their defense, I saw an interview online where they talk about the Romanian horses being particularly problematic because none of them were gelded, so all they wanted to do was raise hell and fight each other.
If you don’t know what a gelded horse is, I can’t help you.