Review Rating: 8
The story of a bitter blood feud between two families over the West Virginia and Kentucky river borders after the civil war ended.
This is actually a long-standing story that was referred to in a lot of older cartoons I watched when I was younger – Looney Tunes and Disney mostly. Two pioneer style mountain type families, the men all in hats and beards, the women in Little House on the Prairie dresses with their hair up, all a-feudin and a-fightin and a-lovin and a-dyin. This version of the actual story of the Hatfields and the McCoys, is a lot darker, but there is a lot more grit and realism too.
So we start off with the incredibly memorable Kevin Costner, who’s finally back in a role at which he excels, the reluctant anti-hero “Devil” Anse Hatfield, instead of those godawful romantic comedies he had been gracing us with. Bill Paxton, who astounds in these kinds of roles right out of Tombstone and the like, is Randall McCoy, leader of the opposing family. The two of them start off at the end of the civil war, where ‘Devil’ Anse decides he’s plumb had enough already, and deserts his post while Randall looks on in disapproval and disbelief. Some while later, Randall is released from his own post, and takes his disapproval all the way home to his stunned wife, turning his own thanks to God for leading him home to his family. The show does a fine job of reminding the audience of this original disapproval of Anse abandoning his post, when originally McCoy and Hatfield loved eachother like brothers serving in the army for years. And soon, trouble begins. There’s arguments over logging rights, boundary properties, a sly McCoy lawyer (he doesn’t use that last name, so one has to be reminded of that fairly often), and a Hatfield judge doing his damnedest to remain impartial to the law. The wives would be friends, but their menfolk don’t approve, and it’s always the women and children who suffer for these kinds of feuds. Anse’s brother is beat to hell and shot down at the fair, there’s a whole actual trial in the courthouse over who owns the pig, and each time emphasis is placed on the fact that, when things are brought to the Family heads, they take revenge yes always, but in as restrained a manner as they can manage. Anse and Randall were originally brothers, friends at least, and they both in their own way try to minimize collateral damage.
Much to do is made about the supposed romance between Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy, though for the life of me, it didn’t seem like much of a romance at all. Johnse has a bit of a reputation for seducing pretty girls, and when he falls head over lust over Roseanna, the fact that she’s a McCoy just adds danger spice to his already overflowing libido. Nothing for it but for them to get found out, her to get knocked up, Roseanna disappears to a relative to give birth and fairly soon after that both mother and child die from some mysterious wasting disease that’s classified as depression. This entire time, Johnse has sworn up down and sideways that he loves Roseanna, and yet, rarely puts in the effort required to visit her and ends up seducing (or is it the other way round) her best friend Nancy. Another McCoy – shocking.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but it is a very good show. The middle gets a little more muddled over family feuds than I would like, simply preferring to focus on the veteran actors in the roles of Family Heads, but that’s me. Costner and Paxton really are the stars of this show, having earned their spurs all over the place in similar films already. Tom Berenger is Jim Vance, Anse’s eldest uncle and the personal psycho whirling dervish of the Hatfield clan. Powers Boothe is Judge Valentine “Wall” Hatfield, and boy does he bring the house down. Matt Barr, who’s apparently been on lots and lots of TV, is Johnse Hatfield and I just didn’t care for the character, but that’s me. Lindsay Pulsipher is Roseanna McCoy, and while she did fine as the melancholy little thing, once again I just didn’t much care for the character herself. Andrew Howard is “Bad” Frank Phillips, bounty hunter turned sheriff involved in the feuding for his own reasons. Ronan Vibert is Perry Cline, smooth and deadly McCoy lawyer. A fine cast and thorough efforts at things like sets, proper costumes and adherence to the speech and mannerisms of the time, give the audience the real feel of being there.
Catch all the feuding of Hatfields & McCoys available on Hulu now!