Tuesday, March 4, 2008

3:10 to Yuma

The Action Mutant…
is waiting for the 4:20 to Pottsville. Oh, come on AM…a pot joke?

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

review by Joe Burrows

I think even a casual fan of films kind of knows the drill now when it comes to Westerns. One year, they seem to have resurgence and then they fall by the wayside again. The genre lays dormant for about five years, with perhaps an Indie Western or two during that time making some waves but not enough to warrant mass mainstream response. Then, after a few years, one Western comes along that supposedly turns the genre on its ear and it was like they never left. Though I wouldn’t say the remake to 3:10 to Yuma breaks any new ground in the genre, I can safely add it to my list of Western favorites.

The Plot, as it was:
Christian Bale (everyone’s favorite, Patrick Bateman, in American Psycho) plays Dan Evans, a poor family man that had part of his leg shot off during the Civil War. Fighting to keep the government from kicking him out of his home to make way for railroads and trying to provide for his wife (Gretchen Mol) and two kids (Logan Lerman, Benjamin Petry), Dan hopes for some sort of chance at redemption (and money). Both come in the form of charismatic stagecoach robber Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), as Evans joins a posse that is responsible for escorting Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison in two days so he can serve his latest sentence. Of course, it’s never that simple, as Wade starts to make Evans question if the right thing to do is actually the right thing for Dan. Much soul searching and bullet dodging is done by Evans, as Wade’s mad dog right hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) leads Ben’s gang to rescue their boss.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Though 3:10 to Yuma is a remake of a 1957 film starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford, this effort does more than enough to surpass the original in many ways. The relationship that develops between Evans and Wade really anchors things and makes the story more multi-faceted than many would think a Western could be. Of course, this dimension is bolstered by two great lead performances and a load of atmosphere that conveys a barren landscape with occasional bursts of life. Bale plays a sullen man of many internal conflicts but he never comes off as boring, even though he’s the hero. His playing off of the children in his family adds more resonance to his character’s story, for which we can empathize with. Crowe does another one of his career making turns as the heavy, as he makes him part conscience and part urban legend. His characterization is akin to that of a Robert Mitchum, playing a very laconic Devil’s Advocate that is charming and menacing at the same time. Foster (becoming known for his eccentric roles, such as the cracked out, kung fu skinhead he played in the little seen Alpha Dog) steals just about every scene he’s in as Charlie Prince, showing that cold/hot blooded persona he has in past appearances. About the only qualm I could pick out (and it’s a little one) is that the final shootout is too drawn out and Bale begins to sprint real well for a guy with a prosthetic limb. However, the ending is totally appropriate for the tale and caps off what is essentially a well told, occasionally stylish Action Western.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Old School) is uncredited as railroad posse member Zeke.

Body Count/Violence: 45. I termed this as an “Action Western”, much in the vein of Tombstone. This is so because people get mowed down by gunfire at a pretty fair clip (with blood splatter ranging from mild to Peckinpah level). There’s a variance of artillery as well, with everything from pistols to shotguns to sniper rifles and gattiling guns being used. Aside from the occasional beating, stabbing and explosion, this may be the first Western to not only include exploding horse drawn carriages but an exploding horse as well!

Sexuality/Nudity: Crowe draws a nude Vinessa Shaw in a scene but nothing is shown. If you want to see Mol in all of her glory, rent The Notorious Bettie Page. That may be the greatest “not great” movie ever!

Language/Dialogue: A few F bombs and other milder obscenities but its probably equal to a few minutes of HBO’s Deadwood at best.

How bad was it?:
It was quite universally praised though it got a lot of complaints from those that like to believe Westerns shouldn’t be…you know, violent. Most critics also commence that this version is better than the initial one.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Distributed by Lion’s Gate and made for $55 million (kind of pricy for a Western, isn’t it?), 3:10 to Yuma debuted on 9/7/07 and made it to the top spot, beating out the second week of Rob Zombie’s Halloween and the premiere of Shoot ‘em Up. It only earned a weak $14 million that weekend however, most likely due to the summer box office cool down. It dropped out of the top 10 after a month and fell rapidly afterwards, finishing with $53.6 million (and $6.5 million foreign gross). It has done well on video, leading in DVD rentals and sales its first week out.

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: ****/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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