The Hatfield-McCoy feud revolved around two families, the Devil Anse Hatfield-led clan of West Virginia versus the Ol Ran’l McCoy-led clan of Kentucky, in the second half of the nineteenth century. The History Channel’s scripted mini-series ran for six hours over two nights, chronicling the relationships, violence, and pride that led to one of the longest-running feuds of all time, with Kevin Costner (as the elder Hatfield) and Bill Paxton (as the elder McCoy) headlining.
What exactly caused the fearsome feud? Was it the pig poached from one family’s herd? Was it the desertion by Hatfield from the Confederate Army days before the fighting ended? Was it the pious preaching of McCoy? Was it the romance which developed between Roseanna McCoy (Lindsay Pulsipher) and Johnse Hatfield (Matt Barr), like a frontier Romeo & Juliet? (For the record, Tom Berenger, Jena Malone, and Powers Boothe also add to the powerful cast.)
Maybe it was a culmination of all of them. But the reason gets lost in the drama. You can watch the “making of” bit that is included on the two-disc DVD version (or the Blu-ray) for more information that will highlight why this story was made. Fans of Costner will also enjoy the music video by his band Modern West (”I Know These Hills”). It’s truly awesome to see Costner in a Western again (Silverado, Dances with Wolves are still excellent) but it’s the narrowness of a man’s mind that dominates the screen.
The fact that two friends and their families could become embroiled in a deadly feud shows how far we’ve fallen from what we were meant to be. Roll the tape back to the beginning of God’s creation and we were meant for community. But as this human nature works its way out, these two families can’t be in community with each other because they’re too busy killing each other. Why can’t we get over our pride? Our lust for vengeance? That fallout from the Fall is worse than we might have originally thought…
Even the characters who quote the Scripture seem out of touch with a loving God. Any mention here is merely about the wrath, rather than about the grace. That’s not just held back from the “other side” but even within each family. Children don’t receive it from their parents; brothers don’t receive it from their siblings. Unfortunately, this is like a gang warfare depiction of America that also reflects the way suburban families operate, gracelessly. It makes for an interesting study, but it doesn’t leave us feeling very upbeat. (My only complaint would be in the length though; four hours should have done this quite nicely.)