Definitive proof that the Western hasn't gone west comes with Ed Harris's rollicking adaptation of Robert R. Parker's classic novel.
It's 1882 and self-employed "peacemakers" Virgil Cole (Harris) and his partner Everett Hatch (Mortensen) are hired by the troubled councillors of Appaloosa to bring rebel rancher Randall Bragg (Irons) to book.
The natty, newly-appointed marshals - Everett's got a fabulous hat - have years of experience to draw on and speak sparingly, if necessary the cooler-headed Hatch finishing off his more impetuous buddy's sentences.
Bragg - which gives Irons the best role he's had in an age - is accused of murdering the New Mexico town's previous law-enforcer...and he's certainly not going to come quietly.
However, the laconic lawmen stage an early-morning swoop and grab the felon just as he's emerging from an outside privy and - ignoring the trained rifles of Bragg's wild bunch - stick him in a cell to await trial.
It's all going well - Cole and Hatch even have time to take tea - when trouble rolls into town in the form of Renee Zellweger's widowed ivory-tickler and slapper.
Cole - who's only had experience of "whores'n'squaws" - is smitten and sets up house with her totally oblivious to the fact she's giving the glad eye to all and sundry, including a red-faced Hatch.
Harris's second directorial outing after Pollock certainly doesn't advance the genre but it respects and even subverts its conventions. The result is a highly enjoyable yarn with its ménage a trois owing much to Butch Cassidy.
The affable Harris and Mortensen - who starred together in A History of Violence
- are an eminently watchable pair even if Zellweger appears uncomfortable in a role that fits her about as well as the whalebone bodices she's shoehorned into.
And it looks sensational. Director of photogaphy Dean Semler - whose CV ranges from Stealth
- captures the vibrant palette of New Mexico in glorious wide-screen.
As comfortable as an old saddle and as sharp as an Apache arrow, this is a mighty fine Western for the modern era.