Wednesday, 23 January 2008

3:10 to Yuma

My initial thought when Badgerdaddy contacted me to contribute to this blog was that he/we wanted to review movies that were bad and to save you, our loyal readers, from finding yourself in similar situations. Including 3:10 to Yuma with this lot is a bit unfair. It's not a terrible movie, but it disappoints terribly. At least it did for me.

I was truly looking forward to this one, even though it came and went in the theaters without me seeing it. That can be said for most films. But I love Westerns, and I'm a huge fan of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. I think they are two of the most talented actors out there, and they rarely choose bad roles. I also enjoy the work of Ben Foster, a young but gifted actor whose range is pretty remarkable.

I finally had a chance to sit down and watch it the other night. I didn't hate it, but I can't say that I liked it very much either. And I'm not one of those movie geeks so in love with the original that they immediately dismiss the remake. The original was fine. Not a classic in my mind, but a good little movie based on a good little story by Elmore Leonard. One thing I particularly liked about the original is the performance of Glenn Ford in the outlaw role...the role played by Russel Crowe in the remake.

No, the original film and my feelings toward it had nothing to do with my reaction to the newer film. I have, however, been trying to figure out exactly why I didn't like it without very much success to be honest. Good story: check. Engaging performances: check. Men in chaps: woo-gah...check!

I just kinda bored me. I actually fell asleep sitting up during the second act of the film and that is never a good sign. I woke up after 15 minutes or so, cycled back to the spot where I fell asleep, got myself a soda and started up again. And I almost fell asleep again. Really not a good sign.

I never really started to care about the characters either. Bale plays a rancher injured in the Civil War who is struggling to keep his ranch and his family together. Crowe plays a charismatic leader of an outlaw gang whose enigmatic reasoning for most of his actions are hidden behind a sly smile. Neither character's actions were cookie-cutter Western stereotypes, but they weren't explained very well either. Both men are heroic in there own ways, so the traditional hero/villain dynamic is what the movie is trying to play with.

I'm guessing the real "villain" in the movie is supposed the Rail Road company. Big, bad industry moving in on the folks of a simpler place and time. Crowe and his gang are feeding off of payroll deliveries guarded by Pinkerton detectives, while Bale is trying to pay off loans on his land to avoid losing it to the same Rail Road company. Both men have issues with them, although its not quite clear what Crowe's issues are. And the Pinkerton detectives are portrayed as hard, calculating mercenaries. Killers just as soulless as Crowe and his gang, but they are on the "right side of the law" this time around. The businessman that owns the note on Bale's land and the men that work for him are also portrayed as callous men of violence. So its not quite clear who we are supposed to root for here. And Bale's actions seem completely out of character with his past, or at least that's the way that I saw it.

One small problem I had with the film is that it on the surface it seemed to be a throwback to the mythic-style of the Hollywood Western that was prevalent in John Ford's era. Except for the cussing and the violence. Ford would have had none of that. That's a pretty big change considering the way that Hollywood Westerns had been moving towards gritty realism in the wake of Unforgiven. And not a real welcome change, in my opinion. Iconic men like those portrayed by Crowe, Foster and Peter Fonda (as a Pinkerton detective) most likely never existed. I believe that iconic, mythic Westerns are fine, but don't we have enough of these already? It seems to me that true movie magic occurs when you de-construct those myths and explore a more realistic approach.

Ben Foster's character, in particular, really bothered me. He was a drop-dead shot who would kill a man just as easily as looking at him. Un-flinching loyalty to his boss was his strongest character trait. But what was the impetus behind his adoration? His "love" for Crowe has been discussed and dissected on the message boards quite enough. I, for one, didn't see anything besides platonic and/or paternal love, but some disagree. And he never missed. Except, um, when he was shooting at Christian Bale. Why the inconsistencies? Bad film-making or are we just supposed to suspend belief until the eventual cataclysmic showdown. I dunno, but it did bother me.

I guess I was most impressed with Crowe's enigmatic performance, but I can't really tell you why. It's hard to believe that a man who would willingly kill one of his own people, a friend, would leave witnesses to his atrocities or attempt to befriend those witnesses. He's definitely a complicated man, but without any explanations given I eventually found him to be even more distasteful than the men we are supposed to root against. Just what was it that he stoof for?

I'm sure some of you liked or even loved this movie. I can see why. But it just left me a little flat, and isn't that the worst feeling when you have been really looking forward to something?


Slyde said...

thats dissapointing.. i was planning on downloading this to tivo this weekend...

B.E. Earl said...

Don't let my review stop you. I seem to be in the minority here. It's on IMDB's top 250, so lots of folks like it.

lotus07 said...

I have downloaded this film from Usenet and it sits on my Apple-TV ready to watch....just haven't gotten around to it yet.

B.E. Earl said...

Lotus - Interested to hear what you think of it.

Paige Stanton said...

This isn't a movie I would have chosen but my dad wanted to see it so I thought we'd spend some quality time together.

For other comment readers, I may spoil the ending for you, if you haven't seen it stop reading now.

I thought the movie was okay, but I was pissed off when Christian Bale's character didn't take the money at the end and run and save his family and the ranch. And then it pissed me off even more when he got shot and killed at the end. There was some justice however that Ben Foster's character was also killed. That guy gave me the creeps!