‘Hatfields and McCoys’: Quick review

Last night the History Channel introduced a new Kevin Costner produced mini-series, Hatfields and McCoys, about the original family feud. Here are a few thoughts:

1) Romania stands in nicely for the Kentucky-West Virginia post-Civil War wilderness.
2) It wasn’t necessary to go to Romania to film. There are 150 acres behind my house that would have worked well.
3) There is a lot of grimacing in this movie.
4) Kevin Costner does his best “wearily serious” expression in every scene.
5) Bill Paxson splits his screen time between his “really mad” face and his “really confused” face.
6) I think Paxson had as many kids by one wife in this movie than by all his wives in Big Love.
7) Some of the kids in this movie will never act again.
8) Fornicating was just as popular then as now. As was cussing. As was killing.
9) Knowing the Bible but not obeying it was just just as popular with Randall McCoy as it is for many today.
10) This story proves why vengeance should be left to God.

hatfields and mccoys devil anse hatfield randall mccoy

'Devil Anse' Hatfield (l) and Randall McCoy (r)

Much of the above is tongue-in-cheek if it was not obvious. The movie is riddled with bad acting performances, and if this was a mini-series on Lifetime it might not even finish. The draw of this production (besides the fantastic trailer) is an answer to the question, “What in the world were these two families feuding about?”

However, the story itself is compelling enough, even unbelievable enough to pull me into it and hold me there. Yes the dialogue is mostly invented, but the history is real and intriguing.

For most Americans “the Hatfields and McCoys” has suffered a reduction, now referring to any disagreement. Many in my generation can attribute the sum total of their knowledge to a refrain in a single song: Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the basics of love)”:

This successful life we’re livin’s got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys

But anyone who has ever pastored a church in Smalltown, USA, can tell you that–short of killing each other–there exist decades-long feuds between families and within them. The origins of such feuds are long forgotten or long adjudged meaningless, yet the feud remains.

This is the second draw, I think. Who has not been angry enough with someone at some point in life when a long rift could have taken place? Would I have forgiven such a wrong? If the rift advanced, would I have been (or will I be) the one to take the first step to heal it? Such stories are rife with opportunities for self reflection. We are reminded of the Bible’s charge of hatred being the same as murder.

Christ’s followers are called to peace. We are instructed in Romans to live peaceably with everyone so far as it depends on us. The Hatfield and McCoy feud reminds these are wise and healthy pursuits.

Marty Duren

Just a guy writing some things.