Saturday, September 8, 2007


3:10 to Yuma

Back in the Pleistocene Era (1957), Elmore Leonard’s short story “3:10 to Yuma,” became a tense, tight High Noon knockoff of a Western about a rancher (Van Heflin) trying to get an outlaw (Glenn Ford) on a train to Yuma prison so he could collect a reward and pay his debts. By the end – it’s a three-day trip through Apache territory -- no one would help the poor bastard.

The same plotlines run through this flashily entertaining remake from Walk the Line director James Mangold, who already updated the material in 1997’s Cop Land. The story’s moral code clearly speaks to Mangold, and he’s put two top-notch actors in the saddle. Christian Bale is the anti-American Psycho as rancher and family man Dan Evans, and a dynamite Russell Crowe practically licks his lips as charm-boy villain Ben Wade. Despite kicking up the violence quotient (a Gatling gun figures in a coach robbery) and freighting Freud into the subtext (these cowboys sure are Chatty Cathys), Mangold digs in his spurs as Dan takes on Wade’s gang. Ben Foster is a nutso wonder as a killer with a man-crush on boss Wade, and shout-outs to Peter Fonda as a bounty hunter and Logan Lerman as Dan’s needling teen son. Maybe this redo didn’t need so many bells and whistles, but Mangold brings it home.

3:10 to Yuma" is terrific entertainment! I saw it at a preview screening, followed by a Q&A with two cast members. The film is a sort of "High Noon" & "Gunfight at the OK Corral" hybrid: a high-minded morality play and edge-of-your-seat shoot 'em up. Foremost among the films many strengths are across-the-board convincing performances. A host of actors give manly "character actor" renditions that perfectly orbit the co-superstars, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. In juxtaposition to these gritty macho presences is the captivating and talented Gretchen Mol, who imbues her character with restrained strength and a tactile earthy edge that veers between raw and refined in the forcefield of the two male leads. Her womanly performance contrasts starkly to the mano-a-mano male efforts, and is a singular revelation. The film's ending has some twists and turns that may or may not sit well -- for me and some in the audience, it did not; but for others, it did. Either way, this compelling western is thought-provoking and thrilling throughout and I recommend it enthusiastically.

ALIASd writes:

4of 4 Stars

What a rush to see such a beautifully photographed, expertly directed, well-written and spectacularly acted film. Russell Crowe returns to the top with a performance laced with so much menace, quiet power and surprisingly warm humor. Christian Bale is his perfect counterpart and counterpoint, a humble man struggling through a tough life and finds himself face-to-face with offers of deals from the devilish outlaw. A good man vs. a very, very bad man. Fabulous performances from everyone from old pro Peter Fonda to young gun Ben Foster to Dallas Roberts, so good in 'Walk The Line' as legendary Sun Records owner and producer Sam Phillips. And even a terrific cameo from a well-known actor doing some of his best work in recent memory. Director James Mangold continues the promise last shown in 'Walk The Line' and delivers a slam-bang new version of an old western for the new frontier.

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