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It is interesting how having an Oscar nominated director and actor, along with an Oscar winning actor can make a film garner award season buzz rather than the backlash of being a remake. The stigma of remake usually spells the kiss of death for most films, but it seems almost an afterthought with James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma. Based on an Elmore Leonard short story, the original is somewhat highly touted, so it is not as though people don’t know of it to have forgotten. Either way, I believe a film should be looked upon individually and not necessarily compared to what came before it. Sure, that will never happen, as comparisons are too easy to not be made, but if a remake works, it works on its own. As far as this one goes, hot on the heels of two remakes I did not enjoy—The Invasion and Halloween—we finally have a winner. I have not seen its predecessor, however, the Western genre has been seeing somewhat of a revival lately. As far as those go, this does not quite match the brilliance of The Proposition from last year, it does ultimately warrant a look.

By far, it’s the acting that really shines. Between the Oscar winner in Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, (no he isn’t the nominated actor here, that’s Peter Fonda, Bale still surprisingly hasn’t been so honored), you have an acting clinic. These two are phenomenal as the outlaw being taken to his death and the rancher who volunteers to do it. Bale has shown that he is fantastic as the honest, hardworking, moral figure trying to do right by his family, but rarely have we seen Crowe as a complete villain. Even his L.A. Confidential badass was at heart a good guy that was working for bad men. Here he is great as the cocky, fast-talking, charismatic, psychopathic killer. Bale’s character’s son says, he is not all bad, when actually, Crowe says, he is. No matter how affable he can appear, it is always for his own devices in order to get close and pull the trigger. While this aspect is wonderful on the whole, it is also the one main flaw of the film. We are shown this dark side of Crowe for the entire duration, and, as a result, the evolution of the relationship between he and Bale becomes implausible. I just truly didn’t believe that they would have opened up to each other as they do.

Those two leads are by far the reasons to check out the film. It’s like the buzz surrounding Righteous Kill which all culminates to the fact that we will be able to see DeNiro and Pacino onscreen together; these two have that same dynamic and possibly are a tad better at that. There are more good actors here too—Alan Tudyk plays a rendition of his usual persona, Gretchen Mol is a welcome sight having been away from the scene for awhile, and Ben Foster again shows why he is the actor of choice for crazed lunatics. The one bad casting call is Luke Wilson in a bit part. Being Luke Wilson is a detriment because all the audience does is laugh at him trying to be serious. He might have been spot-on in the performance, but I’ll never know; you really can’t get past who he is to actually find out.

There is a plot involved here too, and it isn’t that bad of one. The tension and wonder at whether they will make the train weighs heavy throughout the film and the interactions between the characters help create the interest. Aesthetically, the filmmakers do a good job showing the grime and filth of the time period as well as the carnage and selfishness that was prevalent. Were it two lesser actors, however, I have to believe I might have been bored by the length of the journey. It is Bale and Crowe chewing scenery that keeps the film from falling into a slow, plodding pace. The finale saves everything with the action amped up fully, the shootout is orchestrated to perfection. Again, though, I didn’t quite believe why Crowe does what he does during it. I understand his ego and him thinking he had the ability to help Bale’s psyche while still not hurting himself, but it was a bit too convenient. The bittersweet ending did help save any problems I had with it and in the end I will say I had a real good time.

3:10 to Yuma 8/10

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photography:
[1] Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) and Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) in 3:10 TO YUMA. Photo credit: Richard Foreman / Lionsgate
[2] Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and Alice Evans (Gretchen Mol) in 3:10 TO YUMA. Photo credit: Richard Foreman / Lionsgate

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