Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda. Western. Written & directed by Cathy Konrad and James Mangold.
FILM SYNOPSIS: In this modern take on the classic western by Elmore Leonard, the setting is 1800s Arizona, where infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the 3:10 train to Yuma where the killer will face trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each others respect. But with Wades outfit on their trail the mission soon becomes a violent journey.
PREVIEW REVIEW: Heres something Id like to convey to Hollywood concerning the western: the main supporters of that genre are mostly traditionalists. While todays filmmakers are looking for the spin, lovers of westerns are looking for John Ford. Over the past few decades, the makers of movies have attempted to either put a new take on Fords values or, worse yet, attempt to update them with more graphic realism. But even the few that have met with critical and box office success (Open Range, Unforgiven) did little to inspire a rebirth of the legend of the West. Too much profanity and too much profundity have replaced the simplicity of structure and character.
Now, listen Tinseltown, we are living in a time when it is obvious that moviegoers are looking for the familiar (most films this year are sequels or salutes to the familiar). Think: A return to the once traditional view of the Old West might generate a return of popcorn buyers now shy of that genre thanks to Brokeback Mountain.
Ill back this theory up with an example. John Wayne is still voted in poll after poll as one of the most popular movie stars, ever. His films constantly run on most cable movie stations and the DVDs of nearly all his 200 films continue to be money makers. True, there will never be another John Wayne, but besides his persona, people supported his films because of the principles he honored with his roles.
I wont go further, because even if they should read it, the Hollywood Elite wouldnt pay attention. But rather than delete my rant, Ill pass it on to you in order to further explain my disappointment with the latest rendering of the Old West. Before I go into the negatives, however, Ill state my enjoyment with several elements of 3:10 to Yuma.
First, good performances by all. A good actor takes your mind off a films deficiencies. Both Russell Crowe and Christian Bale are able to direct your attention off this films faults with their fleshed-out characterizations. Second, theres lots of action, lots of well-choreographed shootouts that highlight the drama. And besides all the well- choreographed gunplay, the film attempts to add suspense and psychological drama.
Alas, it doesnt come close to the original in its effectiveness. Oh, you didnt know it was made before? Come on, other than Waitress, Hollywood hasnt made anything new all summer; just familiar. In the 1957 version, directed by Delmer Daves (Broken Arrow, Dark Passage), Van Heflin played the struggling farmer and Glenn Ford the murderous outlaw. It was a bit more wordy than the remake, but it was also more captivating with its High Noon-like western clichs and Mr. Daves intense and tautly structured direction.
Both films reveal complexity of character, with men tested to the limit and both discovering their true character, but in this newer one, directors Cathy Konrad and James Mangold seem more in tune with the spaghetti western than the works of American filmmakers such as Hathaway, Hawks or Ford. The opening scene is off-putting with its copycatting of Ennio Morricones use of music and Sergio Leoni-like overbearing visual style, punctuated by todays jittery close-ups and excessively violent structure.
The westerns of long ago were films the entire family could attend. Though injustice reared its ugly head, the valiant sought and brought about retribution. While that quality is in this updated version, so is the gruff and gritty R-rated content that has become commonplace. Exploitive sexuality, the profane use of Gods name and the superfluous use of violence that includes a man being burned alive while trapped in a cage and another being stabbed to death in the throat with a dinner fork (a gruesome use of sound effects) make it undesirable for those who werent assaulted by Hathaway, Hawks or Ford. Do the filmmakers think this brutal realism is necessary to satisfy todays audiences? Is it?
DVD Alternative: Ride The High Country. This nearly flawless film depicts the ending of a way of life for two westerners, one a lawman, the other his outlaw friend. Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott. Directed by Sam Peckinpah before his films became filled with extremely violent images.
Special Note: If youd like to compare the original 3:10 To Yuma with the latest version, the 1957 western has just been released on DVD.