Bonded by their oath to the same flag, two confederate soldiers, “Devil” Anse Hatfield (Kevin Costner) and Randall McCoy (Bill Paxton), return home seeking peace after tireless months of battle. Their expectations are quickly shattered when a murder based on misunderstandings and an illicit love affair trigger warfare between former comrades and their clans. This historic feud teeters on the brink of an all out civil war as friends and neighbors join opposing sides in a rivalry that would ultimately shape American History.
The legendary 19th-century battle between two West Virginia clans that came to define the term feud gets a lengthy and frequently dramatic retelling in Hatfields & McCoys, a six-hour miniseries driven by leads Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton as the warring family patriarchs. Both actors lend considerable gravitas to the sprawling story, which begins with Costner's Devil Anse Hatfield going AWOL during the Civil War, setting in motion a growing animosity with former friend Randolph McCoy (Paxton) that blossoms into full-blown violence over a property dispute between the families. Bloodshed begets bloodshed, due in part to a series of miscommunications, long-simmering grievances, and acts of outright foolishness, several of which are the work of hot-blooded Hatfield relative Jim Vance (Tom Berenger). What emerges from the final work is a portrait of generational murder as a sort of Biblical virus, with the sins of the fathers wreaking untold havoc on their children, including a pair of young Hatfield-McCoy lovers (Lindsay Pulsipher and Matt Barr) whose romance considerably exacerbates tensions. The latter subplot is probably the sole weak element in the miniseries, detracting from the tragic forward momentum of the familial conflict and solid turns by all concerned, including Powers Boothe as Costner's sage older brother and Jena Malone and the always-welcome Mare Winningham as women on the McCoy side. A major ratings hit and multiple Emmy nominee for The History Channel, which made its dramatic project debut with the miniseries, Hatfields & McCoys is a compelling historical drama for both Western fans and non-genre followers alike. The DVD includes a modest, electronic press kit-style making-of featurette as well as a music video for the song "I Know These Hills," sung by Costner and his band, Modern West. --Paul Gaita