Friday, June 08, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys (TV Mini-Series)

Directed by Kevin Reynolds with a teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker from a story by Mann and Bill Kerby, Hatfields & McCoys is a 3-part TV mini-series that chronicles a feud between two different families in the late 1800s in West Virginia-Kentucky. The TV miniseries explores how the feud began as it escalated for many years before it finally ended in the early 1890s as playing the head the warring families are Kevin Costner as Devil Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randolph McCoy. Also starring Tom Berenger, Mare Winningham, Jena Malone, Matt Barr, Lindsay Pulsipher, Sarah Parish, and Powers Boothe. Hatfields & McCoys is a sprawling and thrilling epic TV mini-series from Kevin Reynolds.

Part 1

After a brutal battle during the Civil War in 1863, Devil Anse Hatfield chooses to flee his regiment leaving his friend Randolph McCoy to fight on where he was eventually captured by the Union until the War’s end. Following McCoy’s release from a Union prison, he learns that his brother Harmon (Chad Hugghins) was killed two years earlier by Devil Anse’s uncle Jim Vance (Tom Berenger) who was offended by Harmon’s Union coat. With Hatfield becoming rich through a timber business, McCoy feels resentful as his cousin Perry Cline (Ronan Vibert) tries to sue Hatfield over land only to lose. In 1878, the tension between the Hatfields and McCoy come to ahead when Floyd Hatfield (Lloyd Hutchinson) had bought a pig that actually belonged to McCoy.

With Judge Valentine “Wall” Hatfield (Powers Boothe) choosing to settle the matter, things unfortunately go wrong as a war ensues when McCoy’s nephews killed a witness over his testimony in the pig case. Judge Hatfield asks both men to not get into a war as things cool down a bit for two years until Devil Anse’s son Johnse (Matt Barr) falls for Randolph’s daughter Roseanna (Lindsay Pulsipher) as they form a relationship much to the dismay of their fathers. Wanting to avoid bloodshed, Levicy Hatfield (Sarah Parish) tells Roseanna to return home to the McCoys where her mother Sally (Mare Winningham) has Roseanna live with her aunt Betty (Joy McBrinn) to avoid further trouble. Instead, Perry Cline makes a discover that would escalate the tension between the Hatfields and the McCoys as their leaders make a troubling discovery.

Part 2

After setting the issue over Johnse and Roseanna’s love affair, the fighting briefly stops until a gathering in Kentucky where a brawl between Hatfield and McCoy family members led to the death of Devil Anse’s brother. In response to the murder, Devil Anse orders the death of McCoy’s three sons furthering the war as Randall and Perry Cline decide to put a bounty on the Hatfields. Answering to that bounty is a man named “Bad” Frank Philips (Andrew Howard) who has killed Skunkhair Tom Wallace (Andy Gathergood) for the McCoys where the war escalates. Meanwhile, Johnse falls for Roseanna’s cousin Nancy (Jena Malone) as they decide to get married much to the dismay of the entire Hatfield family. When Nancy’s brother Jefferson (Jonathan Frederick) has killed someone with Jim Vance and his nephew Cap (Boyd Holbrook) going after him. Nancy fights back only to be beaten by Vance while Cap kills Jefferson.

Things get more complicated as Nancy asks Philips to kill Jim Vance personally as she also reveals a plan of her own. With the battle lines escalating and Philips taking on the command for the McCoys to capture several Hatfields to find the whereabouts of Devil Anse. Politicians from both Kentucky and West Virginia try to smooth things out as a war is about to heat between both sides.

Part 3

With the battle lines intensifying as Jim Vance, Cap, and several Hatfields decides to attack the McCoy cabin on New Year’s Day that left two McCoy children dead and Sally McCoy on the brink of insanity. The war starts to take its toll on Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy as both are troubled by the bloodshed that has grown. When Nancy decides to leave Johnse after he had accidentally revealed some information about Vance’s whereabouts, Johnse’s actions lead to dire consequences as Devil Anse makes a decision concerning Johnse. Roseanna returns to the McCoy family to take care of her mother as she starts to fall ill over all of the turmoil concerning the war. After the brutal battle that left Hatfield to retreat, both sides start to grow weary as Wall Hatfield chooses to turn himself in. With Randall descending into alcoholism and Devil Anse feeling ill, both men come to terms with everything they had dealt with in a war that’s becoming a part of American history.

The mini-series is about the origins of how the Hatfields and McCoys began their feud and how it would escalate into a war that became part of American folklore. Spanning from the mid-1860s in the Civil War to the early 1910s to establish the final outcome of the Hatfield and McCoy war. The teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker do build up a lot of momentum into how the seeds of the feud began where it was a combination of resentment from Randall McCoy’s side to the sheer hatred of Jim Vance who kills Harmon McCoy for wearing a Union coat. Things eventually escalate where it becomes a war about honor while there’s a subplot involving Devil Anse’s son Johnse who falls for Randall’s daughter Roseanna that would lead to more complications.

The script does allow characters like Devil Anse and Randall to each have an understanding about war as both men are flawed. There’s also a lot of compelling characters who are involved as the non-violent Johnse becomes this very innocent man who is in love with Randall’s daughter in hopes that the war will end. Instead, things become complicated as he ends up marrying Roseanna’s cousin Nancy that would get him into more trouble as he would unknowingly gain an understanding about how bad the war is. Then there’s the women like Sally McCoy and Levicy Hatfield are individuals who stay away from the bloodshed only to both become weary of the war while Sally almost becomes involved in the fighting that led to her descent into madness.

Then there’s Nancy McCoy who is revealed to be a devious woman with dark intentions dating back to her father’s death as she seduces Johnse for her own gain to help aid Bad Frank Philips to the dismay of Roseanna and Randall. Eventually, the war does take a toll on its leaders where Randall where both men want to seek an end to the whole thing. Yet, this is not a traditional war where it all culminate with a battle but rather sort of ends with a whimper because of the weariness and how outside forces tried to publicize the whole thing. Overall, the script is among one of the mini-series highlights although there is a few flaws in terms of the dramatization of the whole thing.

Kevin Reynolds’ direction is incredible for the way he recreates late 19th Century Mid-South America as it’s shot on location in Romania due to the fact that it has lots of trees and fields. With its vast depth-of-field shots of the locations and gorgeous compositions for many of its exterior setting, Reynolds is able to create a mini-series that is big while maintaining a wonderful intimacy for some of the mini-series’ interior scenes. Reynolds does create an air of suspense in a lot of the battle scenes as well as more simpler shots in some of the dramatic moments. While there’s a few parts of the mini-series that isn’t perfect including one scene that is obviously shot with a fake computerized-background. The overall work that Reynolds does is superb for creating a mini-series about a legendary American feud.

Cinematographer Arthur Reinhart does excellent work with the look of mini-series from the sunny exteriors including some grey shots to capture the tone of the mini-series to some entrancing interiors to help play out some of the suspense. Editor Don Cassidy does terrific work with the editing to create some amazing rhythmic cuts for some of the battle sequences along with more straightforward cuts for the dramatic sequences. Production designer Derek R. Hill, with art directors Serban Porupca and John B. Vertrees and set decorator Sally Black, does fantastic work with the set pieces such as the Hatfield farm to establish his success and McCoy‘s cabin to display the lack of success along with various sets to help create the world of the late 1890s.

Costume designer Karri Hutchinson does nice work with the costumes from the clothes and cowboy hats the men wear to the dresses that the women wear in that period. Hair designer Giorgio Gregoni and makeup artist Mario Michisanti do wonderful work with the look for some of characters such as the beards for the men and the hairstyles that women wear in those times. Sound mixers Christian T. Cooke and Brad Zoern do brilliant work with the sound to capture the chaos of the battles to some sparser moments in quieter scenes. The film’s score by John Debney and Tony Morales is amazing for its folk-driven score that is led by bombastic orchestral arrangements with folk violins and various string instruments to play up the times as it features different themes from more plaintive material for the romantic scenes to sprawling pieces for the battle scenes.

The casting by Fern Champion, Laura Grosu, and Amy Hubbard is phenomenal for the large ensemble that is assembled. In small but memorable roles, there’s Chad Hugghins as Harmon McCoy, Joy McBrinn as Roseanna’s aunt Betty, Jonathan Frederick as Nancy’s brother Jefferson, Andy Gathergood as Hatfield ally Skunkhair Tom Wallace, Lloyd Hutchinson as Floyd Hatfield, and Noel Fisher as Hatfield’s mentally-challenged nephew Cotton Top Hatfield. Sarah Parish is wonderful as the kind and knowing Levicy Hatfield who tries to Devil Anse and her boys to see reason while aware of the trouble that could happen if someone is associated with the McCoys. Powers Boothe is great as the reasonable Wall Hatfield who tries to avoid taking part of the bloodshed only to be in the middle of the war.

Matt Barr is really good as the kind-hearted Johnse Hatfield who falls for Roseanna McCoy as he tries to find a way to end the war. Boyd Holbrook is terrific as the one-eyed Cap Hatfield who helps lead the charge for the Hatfields while proving to be a great shot. Ronan Vibert is superb as the slimy McCoy family attorney Perry Cline who tries to talk his way through getting the McCoys some legal advantage while Andrew Howard is fun as the cold-blooded bounty hunter Bad Frank Philips. Lindsay Pulsipher is very good as the lovely Roseanna McCoy who falls for Johnse only to feel lost in the late stages of the war. Mare Winningham is brilliant as Sally McCoy who tries to deal with all of the chaos of the war as she later descends into madness.

Jena Malone is incredible as the ruthless Nancy McCoy who would use her seductive charm to get what she wants while there’s a more sinister side to her over her hatred towards the entire Hatfield family. Tom Berenger is great as the vicious Jim Vance who would be the person that would start the bloodshed between the Hatfields and McCoys as it’s a very dark yet fun performance from Berenger. Bill Paxton is amazing as the resentful Randall Hatfield who feels slighted over the lack of honor from Hatfield as he later descends into disillusionment and doubt over all of the chaos of the war. Finally, there’s Kevin Costner in a mesmerizing performance as Devil Anse Hatfield whose intentions to succeed has him becoming a target where he also goes into dark places as it’s a very thrilling performance from Costner as it’s the best thing he’s done since 2003’s Open Range.

Hatfields & McCoys is a remarkable TV mini-series from Kevin Reynolds that features top-notch leading performances from Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. Along with noteworthy supporting performances from Tom Berenger, Jena Malone, and Mare Winningham, it’s a TV mini-series that is definitely engaging and entertaining while providing some insight into the legendary Hatfield-McCoy feud that is part of American folklore. In the end, Hatfields & McCoys is an extraordinary TV mini-series from Kevin Reynolds.

Kevin Reynolds Films: (Fandango) - (The Beast (1988 film)) - (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) - (Rapa Nui) - (Waterworld) - (One Eight Seven) - (The Count of Monte Cristo (2002 film)) - (Tristan & Isolde)

© thevoid99 2012

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