Michael Sauter
July 09, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The wide-open spaces in ’40s-set Western The Hi-Lo Country have a high lonesome beauty that feels fenced in on video. But the reduced sweep doesn’t diminish the tale of two cowboys trying to make their way as independent ranchers while a cattle baron (Sam Elliott) buys up the land around them. In true cowboy tradition, Harrelson’s brawling tomcat and Crudup’s taciturn brooder project a bond without jawin’ too much about it. Even more compelling is their unspoken tension when its turns out they both love the restless wife (Arquette) of a ranch foreman. That it all ends tragically isn’t a surprise; that the tragedy doesn’t come when expected is a mark of the movie’s success in well-traveled territory. A-

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