'Hatfields and McCoys': It's a bland feud
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WHEN|WHERE Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 9 p.m. on History
WHAT IT'S ABOUT In 1878, a feud broke out between the Hatfield family, living mostly on the West Virginia side of the Tug Fork river, and the McCoys, on the Kentucky side. Legend has it that the argument began over a hog.
This six-hour miniseries -- shot entirely in Romania -- begins at the end of the Civil War, with Anse Hatfield (Costner) fighting shoulder to shoulder with Randall McCoy (Paxton) at the Battle of Devil's Backbone in Arkansas. McCoy saves the life of Hatfield, who later sees a boy die before his very eyes. He deserts, while McCoy spends the rest of the war in a Union prison camp. Bad blood is born.
After the war, Jim Vance (Tom Berenger), uncle of Anse, kills a McCoy family member. The feud begins. Randall's hog is maybe stolen. It gets worse. His daughter, Roseanna (Lindsay Pulsipher), falls in love with Anse's son Johnse (Matt Barr). Worse still. Then, three McCoy boys kill Anse's brother. Now it's war. Also starring Mare Winningham as Sally, wife of Randall, and Sarah Parish as Levicy, spouse of Anse. Both are long-suffering.
MY SAY Many excellent actors ... first-rate production values ... nice scenery -- albeit of Romania. So what's not to like about "Hatfields & McCoys?" Simple: the story. It's an uninteresting one, peopled with almost criminally bland characters. In fact, as portrayed here -- quite possibly accurately -- they're a bunch of bibulous knuckleheads who shoot at each other year after year -- or on TV, hour after hour -- and have no real idea why. It's an interminable eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth narrative, with a body count so high you'll lose track of all the eyes and teeth. (By the way, a history book I consulted said "no more than a dozen deaths occurred.")
Unfortunately, this famous old feud was an insignificant burp in American history. It bore little relevance to the catastrophe that preceded it, and has no modern-day relevance. That's a whole lot of irrelevance to fill six hours.
BOTTOM LINE Violent and dull.