Movies must have at least one redeeming character – at least one

I just finished watching the final episode of the “Hatfields & McCoys” on the History Channel and you must give the channel, and the production, an “A” for effort. But, and it’s a huge but, you must, and I mean must, always have at least one character that you care about. Just one. That, unfortunately, doesn’t happen here.

What you get is careful attention to detail. That’s good. Great acting. The script is good, even illuminating, but you don’t care about any of the folk. They are just killing each other while they drink themselves to death. Over and over and over again. Repeated, repeated, repeated. Get drunk and kill a McCoy or a Hatfield. It goes on and on and on. In any film, book, article, whatever, you must have something, somebody to care about. A hero. A heroin. A good guy. A good girl. A good dog. A good cat. Doesn’t matter. But you gotta have at least one.

You just don’t in this film. Sad to say because it has so many other elements to be proud. Kevin Costner is really good as Devil Anse Hatfield and so is Bill Paxton as Randall McCoy. The rest of the cast is equally as good. But you just don’t care. In fact, you are hoping it will end, but you stay with it because it’s a part of American folklore that oftentimes you didn’t even think actually existed. It did and what a bloodbath.

I watched all three episodes. I enjoyed some of the history, that’s for sure. I enjoyed some of the re-creation of the Kentucky and West Virginia hills. The profit in lumber, for example. I had no idea that lumber was such a hot commodity in West Virginia in the 1880s. It surely was.

The large families were fascinating. In those days, nobody gave a thought to adult children living at home with their mothers and fathers or certainly nearby with their own family. It was how it was done. Families stayed together. Yes, it was to work the farm or the timber, in the case of the Hatfields, but they stayed together. Today, if you do that, you end up on some daytime television talk show where some TV guru puts the family back together again by breaking them apart. Something to think about.

I give great cheer to the History Channel taking on this project. I remember their first one: “The Kennedys” and that was brilliant. Regrettably, they appeared to have folded under the pressure by some powerful folks, deciding not to air it. Then, the Reelz Channel, I think it’s called, picked it up and ran it. That move put that little-known channel on the map. Score one for the Reelz Channel. But, we must never forget, it was the History Channel that put “The Kennedys” as a film on the map. And it was a great piece of film-making. On all levels. I said so at the time. I like the fact the History Channel is reaching our for these scripted true-life movies. We need them. I will forgive them a hiccup with this one.

We all have to remember if you don’t care about the people in the story, you will not care about the story and, it’s the story, stupid, that makes great movies. I love movies, don’t you? Talk soon.

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About stevewhitmore

Former award-winning newspaperman and broadcast journalist, both radio and TV, spanning three decades. Army-trained paralegal, court bailiff and prosecutor's lead investigator for the 8th Infantry Division's Judge Advocate General's Corp., Mainz, Germany. 1973-1975.
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