DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
3:10 TO YUMA (director: James Mangold; screenwriters: Halsted Welles/Michael Brandt & Derek Haas/based on the short story by Elmore Leonard; cinematographer: Phedon Papamichael; editor: Michael McCusker; music: Marco Beltrami; cast: Christian Bale (Dan Evans), Russell Crowe (Ben Wade), Peter Fonda (Byron McElroy), Ben Foster (Charlie Prince), Logan Lerman (William Evans), Gretchen Mol (Alice Evans), Dallas Roberts (Grayson Butterfield), Vinessa Shaw (Emmy Nelson), Alan Tudyk (Doc Potter), Luce Rains (Marshal Weathers), Lennie Loftin (Glen Hollander), Benjamin Petry (Mark Evans), Kevin Durand (Tucker), Sean Hennigan (Marshall Will Doane); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Cathy Konrad; Lionsgate; 2007)

 
"If you are making a do over, at least correct the original's faults."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

It's a makeover of Delmer Daves’ solid but flawed claustrophobic 1957 black-and-white shot Adult Western that starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin and was based on Elmore Leonard's short story, a knockoff of High Noon. It improved the visuals, added a few modern touches, has a bigger finger wagging about big business being unethical while keeping it traditionally old western, and tacked on many bells and whistles; unfortunately it keeps the same ridiculous risible fairy tale finale of an unbelievable conversion of a badass cocky criminal gunslinger as the original and runs for some unneeded reason a half-hour longer. If you are making a do over, at least correct the original's faults. James Mangold ("Walk the Line"/"Cop Land"/"Girl, Interrupted") offers some unimaginative direction while, to his credit, he manages to keep it filled with action, always exciting and draws fine performances from his stars and supporting cast (especially an almost unrecognizable Peter Fonda as a grizzled gung-ho bounty hunter and Ben Foster as a crazed trigger-happy outlaw).

Russell Crowe is the notorious black hat wearing outlaw Ben Wade, who leads a gang of cutthroats who repeatedly rob the Southern Railway's cash shipments. Christian Bale plays the decent family man Arizona territory rancher Dan Evans, married to knockout Alice (Gretchen Mol), who has a hot-headed 14-year-old son William (Logan Lerman) not respectful of his ineffectual and devitalized dad and a younger more obedient son Mark. Dan's in debt because of the drought and is about to lose his ranch to the amoral deed-holder Hollander, who hires thugs to burn down his barn and aims to sell the land for a handsome profit to the capitalist pig railroad he's in cahoots with. The embittered former Union soldier sharpshooter lost one leg during the war and was paid off with $200, as that sum of money will later be used as a symbolic amount that people are willing to pay to walk away from their problems. 

Following basically the same plotlines as the original, Ben is captured in Bisbee after his gang robs the Gatlin gun toting stagecoach box of cash and murders all the Pinkertons but for the shot in the gut Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda). The railroad organizes a group of volunteer deputies to take their valued prisoner to nearby Contention, where they will put the outlaw aboard the 3:10 train to the federal pen at Yuma. Dan volunteers to be a deputy because he's hungry for the $200 paid by the railroad, and sees this as the way to keep his ranch. But it's a dangerous assignment, as Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) and the bad boys vow to free Ben at all costs and the escort service must try to elude them by going through hostile Apache territory and then through a railroad train track construction tunnel site where the bosses have no respect for the law. 

The film shoots for some psychological shading by contrasting the dullish everyman working slob Dan with the successful charismatic sociopath gang leader Ben, and leads us to believe each has a man-crush on the other because they both yearn for what the other has: one secretly yearns for a good family life and the other to be a heroic and respected figure in his community. It also tries to point out that the biggest villain is not the gang leader but the unscrupulous railroad, as represented by a two-faced railroad agent named Mr. Butterfield (Dallas Roberts). 

It breathtakingly takes us to a familiar destination, but gains nothing by upping the body count and by having its good guy rancher being such an unbending man of principles that it's not a reach to find him more nutso than sane. 

REVIEWED ON 9/8/2007        GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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