Monday, September 10, 2007

3:10 to Yuma

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Christian Bale and Russell Crowe Match Wits in Remake of Classic Western from 1957

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a down-and-out rancher who’s struggling to save his cattle during a prolonged drought. After losing lost a leg in the Civil War, the proud veteran had settled in Arizona with his wife, Alice (Gretchen Mol), reasonably expecting to be able to raise his family there in peace. But with his property standing in the path of a proposed railroad, he now finds himself facing the prospect of foreclosure, due to the shady shenanigans of unscrupulous bankers eyeing his land.
With his failings as a provider taking a toll on his personal life, Dan is also close to losing both Alice’s affection and the respect of his sons, especially the elder one, 14 year-old William (Logan Lerman). As luck would have it, an opportunity for redemption and enough sorely-needed cash to tide him over conveniently arrive when ruthless Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), the most wanted man in the West, is collared and needs to be transported across the desert to a train station located in the town of Contention.
The infamous outlaw heads the murderous gang behind a string of stagecoach robberies around the region. With his confederates still at-large and lying in wait, bringing Wade to justice will be no easy matter. Nonetheless, Dan jumps at the chance to earn $200 as a member of the hastily deputized posse being led by a bounty hunter (Peter Fonda).
What could be better than a character-driven Western in which Christian Bale and Russell Crowe spend more time matching wits and swapping philosophies than firing pistols or punching each other? This is precisely what we have in 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of the 1957 classic based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.
Overhauled into a surprisingly-absorbing, if deliberately-paced, morality play, the bulk of the remake is devoted to contrasting wholesome family man Dan with freewheeling bad boy Ben. While this intriguing psychological drama does unfold against the genre’s familiar staples such as sweeping, big sky panoramas, ten-gallon hats, a honky-tonk saloon and bloodthirsty Injuns, this is still a much more cerebral affair than your typical Western
Furthermore, given America’s enduring love affair with gangsters and Crowe’s considerable ability to humanize a monster, don’t be surprised to find Ben and Dan equally-appealing. A complicated cowboy flick where you’re conflicted about whether to root for the guys in the white hats or the black hats by the time the big showdown arrives.

Very good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence and profanity.
Running time: 117 minutes
Studio: Lions Gate Films

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