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Classic Costner Characters

December 28, 2010

by John Farr

As Reel 13 airs what may be Kevin Costner’s most celebrated role, John Farr takes a look back at three more memorable Costner performances.


Silverado (1985)

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

The plot of this Western charmer is strictly boilerplate, but it hardly matters. Four unlikely heroes (Kevin Kline and Danny Glover, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner) are thrown together to save the town of Silverado from corrupt Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy), and some other unscrupulous types, including McKendrick (Ray Baker), the man who’s pulling all the strings in these here parts.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Charismatic performances and swift pacing combine to make this a rousing piece of entertainment in the grand Western tradition. John Bailey’s stunning cinematography and Bruce Broughton’s majestic, Oscar-nominated score certainly help, but in the end, it’s the cast that hooks you- they seem to be having so much fun the audience just has to get in on it. Linda Hunt registers in particular as a sympathetic saloon operator, but a young Costner steals the picture as the boyishly exuberant Jake. This was the role that made him a star.


The Untouchables (1987)

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

During the Prohibition era, government agent Eliot Ness is sent to Chicago to foil megalomaniacal gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro), who’s making a killing selling illegal hooch in collusion with corrupt local cops and politicos. Dismayed at first by Capone’s steely grip on the city, Ness eventually befriends older Irish patrolman Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery), seemingly the city’s only honest lawman, who helps squeaky-clean Ness put the screws to Scarface Al.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Inspired by the 1950s TV series and scripted by David Mamet, this absorbing, operatic gangster flick-a box-office hit in 1987-explores the moral ambiguities of justice, and represents perhaps De Palma’s finest moment in the director’s chair. In a star-making turn, Costner excels as idealistic G-man Ness, schooled in the ways of the street by Connery, who deservedly picked up an Oscar for his superb portrayal of acerbic veteran cop Malone. With a teeth-clenching, tour de force shoot-out in a train station capping the action, “The Untouchables” is a nimbly directed, top-shelf period thriller.


Field of Dreams (1989)

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WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Iowa Farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) obeys inner voice telling him to turn part of his land into a baseball field. “If you build it, he will come,” says the voice. And in this mystical parable of faith and hope, come he does, in the form of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson’s ghost (Ray Liotta), and some other spectral teammates from the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox team. But Ray has some traveling to do himself to get to the bottom of what is actually happening on his field – and why.

WHY I LOVE IT:

Adapted by the director from W.R. Kinsella’s book, this beautifully realized, old-fashioned fantasy movie that raises the spirit and touches the heart. Costner is perfect in a role originally delivered to Tom Hanks, while James Earl Jones provides magnificent support as a reclusive writer who joins Kinsella on his crusade. Ray Liotta also scores in a pre-“Goodfellas” outing playing the legendary “Shoeless Joe” Jackson. This quintessentially American classic goes down just as well on repeat viewings.


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  • comments (0)
  • rayban

    Great choices, John, I also liked Kevin Costner in “No Way Out”, “Bull Durham”, “Waterworld”, “Tin Cup” and “Dragonfly”.