Kevin Costner's “Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1” takes 3 hours to clear the stable

Partially gorgeous, partially dull as dirt, Kevin Costner’s big bet is only part of a movie, but may not hook many.

Growing up, my father would show us old movies and occasionally blurt, “Ah, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore!” It was the ultimate backhanded compliment. Whatever was happening had some old-school Hollywood sweep, but the tipping point came at a moment of retrograde politics from when men were men. (“Very funny,” my mother would usually comment back.) I suspect that if I were to watch Horizon: An American Saga — Chapter 1 (in theaters Friday) with my old man and take a shot of rotgut whiskey each time he’d utter the phrase, the local sawbones would declare me dead before the midway point of the picture.

Notably, halfway through is a full 90 minutes, and that’s just for the first of a planned four individually released films in this American Saga. (Chapter 2 comes out Aug. 16, while Chapter 3 is in production now.) What’s strangest about this three-hour movie, though, is that despite some deadly slow patches, it still feels like an hour was cut from it, considering how characters develop off-screen. On more than one occasion, there are scenes that suggest deep and lasting relationships between people … that must have happened while the camera was somewhere else.

<p>Warner Bros.</p> 'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1'

Warner Bros.

'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1'

It’s irritating but perhaps necessary, considering just how many characters are introduced. Indeed, director, co-screenwriter, and, notably, co-financier Kevin Costner does not make his first onscreen appearance until (exactly) the one-hour mark. When he does show up, prepare yourself for the silliest-looking hat in modern cinema. Everyone else in this movie gets to look cool in their Western duds except for Kevin, sporting an enormously tall blue lid.

Several storylines are introduced in Chapter 1, and, just to let you know, they aren’t going to intersect until at least the next episode. It’s the middle of the American Civil War, and while the Union and Confederacy may be slaughtering one another at Antietam and Bull Run, many are headed West to a new settlement called Horizon. While it seems, at first, to be a paradise of square dancing, good manors, and even some racial harmony (there’s one Black family that seems to fit right in with the rest of the community, plus a Mexican dude who seems to be a welcomed part of the gang), there is the small issue of the nascent town being smack in the middle of the White Mountain Apache hunting grounds.

Related: Why making Horizon has long been Kevin Costner’s (manifest) destiny

It remains a little unclear how aware the newcomers are about their trespassing, but before you can get into it, Indigenous warriors gallop in and slaughter nearly everyone in sight. It’s an extremely effective sequence, though it is (how shall I put this?) tricky, in 2024, to watch angelic blonde white women cower in fear and Pa Kettle-types clutch their folksy fiddles as bloodthirsty Natives swoop in with hatchets. Later, there is some talk about how most of the tribe seems to want to coexist (#NotAllApache), but the searing images remain.

Anyhow, one of those blondes is Frances Kittredge (Sienna Miller), who narrowly survives the assault with her (also blonde) daughter Lizzie (Georgia MacPhail). They are eventually taken away to safety, a sturdier outpost run by the pessimistic Col. Houghton (Danny Huston) and the dovish and handsome Lt. Trent Gephart (Sam Worthington), who quickly starts making eyes at the newly widowed Frances. Young Lizzie soon becomes something of the camp mascot, which climaxes in a scene involving a quilt so hokey it would make the producers of Little House on the Prairie blush.

<p>Warner Bros.</p> Luke Wilson in 'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1'

Warner Bros.

Luke Wilson in 'Horizon: An American Saga - Chapter 1'

Related: Why Kevin Costner bet his own money on new movie Horizon: 'I don’t need 4 homes'

Meanwhile, some of the menfolk who survived the attack go out on the hunt, looking for revenge. There’s a market for Indian scalps, and the posse doesn’t seem too concerned about whether they get the right guys or not. Despite all this, another wagon train is headed to Horizon, led by Luke Wilson, who has to deal with broken axles, a posh British couple who won’t pull their weight, some gross sex pests on the work crew, and, you guessed it, more Natives!

But Kevin Costner is in this movie, right? Yes, and, sad to say, his storyline is actually the least interesting. Before trouble came to Horizon — all ants and scorpions and heat — Ellen (Jena Malone) is in snowy Montana Territory and shoots a man what done her wrong. She packs up with her infant and flees. The man’s two large adult sons, Junior (Jon Beavers) and Caleb (Jamie Campbell Bower), will move heaven and earth to avenge pappy — though to look at Caleb, he still finds a way to bring his personal stylist out to the range. (Was there mousse in the Old West? Horizon suggests yes.)

How does this involve Kevin Costner? I’m getting there. This movie demands patience.

<p>Richard Foreman/Warner Bros.</p> Kevin Costner in 'Horizon: An American Saga, Chapter 1'

Richard Foreman/Warner Bros.

Kevin Costner in 'Horizon: An American Saga, Chapter 1'

Ellen ends up in Wyoming Territory, in a tiny mining town. She’s living with some bozo dork and also one of the town’s many prostitutes, Marigold (Abbey Lee), whose anachronistic performance style is abysmal but at least not boring. Marigold interests a passing worker, Hayes Ellison (Costner, finally!), in her wares, and just after he cleans himself up for an evening of her services, evil Caleb shows up on the way to the shared home looking for Ellen’s kid. It ends in a shooting match, and soon Hayes, Marigold, and the kid are on the run. Costner, age 69, who willed this project into being, makes sure to include a scene in which the former supermodel Lee mounts him, tells him to just lie there, and fornicates him into a good night’s sleep. Hollywood’s an incredible place.

Related: Kevin Costner's son Hayes makes acting debut in Horizon: An American Saga — watch the first trailer

There are several other characters (Frances’s father-in-law is on that wagon train) and little scenarios (the Apache get a scene or two), but the big point is that none of this gets close to being resolved. Of course, this is mitigated by knowing Chapter 2 is just around the bend, but at a time when getting adults to spend time and money to see something at the theater — especially when one can stream Yellowstone and its many prequels from the comfort of your couch — Horizons is a big ask. I’m just not sure how much of a buy-in audiences will feel when this movie wraps up, even if the final five minutes is a ludicrous montage of “scenes to come.” (It’s particularly meaningless because a lot of the characters that flash on screen weren’t even introduced in Chapter 1.)

What does work here, of course, is the location scenery. You can’t beat the American West in the looks department. Also, the music, by John Debney, is the right kind of corny — it’s the loudest, most propulsive version of “you’ve just sat down to watch an introductory video at a state park” you’ve ever heard. This is a compliment, I swear.

It’s possible that Horizon will bomb so horribly Costner never makes it across the finish line. For curiosity’s sake, I really hope he gets there. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore. Grade: C

Read the original article on Entertainment Weekly.