This is apparently a remake of the 1976 movie of the same name (with Stacy Keach), so we might indeed wonder what Michael Winterbottom thought he was doing. At one point the main character remarks that conflicting forces are pulling him apart, so that one day he's jest going to split in two - and perhaps the movie itself is pulling in too many directions at once: (1) Sexploitation. Sadomasochism as titillating entertainment. Lots of women enjoy a good whuppin'? - bad call! (2) Serial killer profiling (John Douglas of the FBI) - violence escalates from "harmless" psychological sources, connected of course with sex. (3) A stock-in-trade thriller. Is this indeed the perfect crime? Will he get away with it? (4) Ambiguity and audience manipulation - are we supposed to sympathise with this thoroughly unlikeable character, when (inevitably) things start to go wrong (a twenty dollar bill turns up, etc). (5) Ironic social comment. Be polite, gentlemanly. Always call people sir and ma'am, except of course when you're bashing them to death. Yup, it's more cheap shots at the sanctimonious South, folks, Texas in this instance. (6) Never mind the plot, feel the authenticity. Period streets and storefronts, good. 1950s cars, great. Even a DC3 aircraft. But the plot does creak badly in places. If your plan includes killing someone, make sure they're dead. It's a great pity that no-one could come up with a satisfying ending - instead we get the same formula pyro-melodramatics that hundreds of movies and TV dramas have resorted to. Casey Affleck and the pathology he portrays have to carry too much of the film, but both are very convincing. There's a ghastly certainty that "there, but for the grace of my (sort of) normal genes, go I." If you like this movie, you'll probably like it a lot.
The material here is very weak: "Tender Mercies" covered the same territory with much more depth. The two leads are played well (though one is constantly thinking of how Kris Kristofferson would have handled the Bad role), but there are basic cinematic flaws - big ones. Bad's paramour says, for instance, that his drinking makes it like "living with a rattlesnake" - yet we never see even a flash of anger from him. He seems much more the depressive drunk than a bipolar one. Good rookie effort, lots of rookie mistakes. Two bones.
Once upon a time there were Westerns. Then one day, along came Clint Eastwood. Then another one day in 1992, he made the film Unforgiven. That movie seemed to put the lid on the coffin of the whole Western movie genre.... Appaloosa seems to mosey into theaters as if nothing ever happened. It is a downright casual film starring Ed Harris and Viggo Mortensen, playing two partners who make a living upholding the law in the small-town west.