A misunderstanding and resentment can breed distrust and hatred among men. And in American history there probably is no better example of this than the Hatfields and McCoys. Two families, that nearly brought their two states to the brink of another civil war over a feud like none other because of two families that could not see eye to eye on any one issue and deeply resented and wound up hating each other.
The History Channel brings us the story of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s in an epic 3-part mini-series over the course of Memorial Day week. It tells the story of “Devil” Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner) and the feud his family had with Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton) and his family. The story begins with the two of them in the civil war as friends and comrades. Hatfield leaves the war early to his home in West Virginia and is a deserter in the eyes of McCoy, a god fearing man. When McCoy eventually returns to his home across the river in Kentucky he holds a deep resentment towards Hatfield.
Hostilities grow as a pig is stolen and family members are killed. Johnse Hatfield (Matt Barr) develops a relationship with Roseanna McCoy (Lindsay Pulsipher) against the wishes of both of the families. Although the two wish to marry, both families forbid it. As coincidence would have it, Roseanna is pregnant with his child and is sent away. Enter Nancy McCoy (Jena Malone) who seems to have a motive of her own and seduces Johnse to the point where the two are married.
Lots of members of the Hatfields die, as do lots of members of the McCoys. An all-out civil war is on the break between the two states as the states begin to take action against the ever increasing feud.
The mini-series that the History Channel has put together stars a lot of impressive talent. On top of Costner and Paxton, Tom Berenger plays Jim Vance, a relative of Hatfield. Powers Boothe plays the level headed Judge Valentine “Wall” Hatfield and we have an impressive performance from Andrew Howard as “Bad” Frank Phillips, the hired gun turned lawman responsible for killing the Hatfield’s on behalf of the McCoy family.
One thing to note is that the mini-series does seem to skew a bit toward the side of the Hatfield’s. “Devil” Anse Hatfield is definitely portrayed as being more level-headed and mindful then Randall McCoy who is portrayed as being more vengeful and god-fearing than anything else. One questions how accurate that actually is, but since this is an interpretation of the facts that surround the feud, it’s just that, an interpretation.
The mini-series moves along at the right pace. Kevin Reynolds directs and the three segments are split at the right times and they leave the viewer wanting more. One thing to note is there is a lot of violence in this series. It was a violent feud and the History Channel thankfully was not shy in showing us what really transpired during the events.
Nothing good can come from a feud. In the case of the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s many lost their lives and the resentment and hatred that both families had for each other lasted for generations. It was only until June 14, 2003 when the feud officially came to an end under a truce signed by the descendants of the families. So while feuds are never a good thing, in this case they are a good thing to watch on the television. This is definitely a good watch!
FINAL GRADE: A –
Reel Film News Mini-Series Review by Bill Ayres