Thursday, September 20, 2007

I Hear the Train A-comin'...

Well, seeing as how I lambasted the original so cruelly a few blogs back, I thought it incumbent upon me to go check out the new incarnation of the movie 3:10 to Yuma, based on the short story by Elmore Leonard. For those who came in late, the original film, made 50 years ago, mind you, starred Glenn Ford (Pa Kent in the first Christopher Reeves' Superman film) as the roguish, charming, homicidal stagecoach robber Ben Wade and veteran character actor (and Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Johnny Eager) Van Heflin as Dan Evans, the desperate farmer who accepts $200 to escort the captured Wade to the town of Contention, where Wade is to be put on the title train to Yuma prison, where he will be properly tried and then pretty much promptly hung. The film is essentially a character study, as the two men come to understand and to some small degree respect one another, on the long trip to Contention. There is some action and gunplay along the way but the biggest problem with the story, as I've mentioned before, is that it has one of the most anticlimactic climaxes I've ever seen in a film. It's the kind of ending that has you leaving the theater shaking your head, wondering why you bothered to watch it all in the first place.

The new incarnation of Yuma stars Oscar winner and perennial bad boy Russell Crowe as Wade and Batman Begins' own Christian Bale as Evans, and each of them brings more of what the characters are to the roles than did the originals. Crowe's Wade is more roguish, more charming, and infinitely more homicidal than Ford's, while I've rarely seen a more woebegone farmer than Bale's Evans. I should also make mention of Ben Foster as Wade's right-hand man, Charlie Prince, a role assayed in the original by the late Richard Jaeckel. As Prince, Foster gives new meaning to the word psychopath. Generally excellent in a variety of supporting parts are Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk, and especially Logan Lerman as Evans' older son William.

There is a lot more action in this new incarnation of Yuma, though the film remains at its heart a study of two men of radically different moralities thrown into mortal conflict. The climax, which I found to be the single most disappointing part of the original, is much, much better here, though still not entirely satisfying. Over all, however, I'd have to give this film a solid three claws up.

Truth to tell, though, as I sat there watching, there was only one real thought that kept rattling around inside my head:

"Y'know," I kept thinking, "What this film really needs is a catchy theme song."

1 comment:

rob! said...

everytime Bale does a non-commercial(ish) film like this one Rescue Dawn, i take it as a good sign that he'll keep doing Batman films because he won't feel typecast or pigeonholed.

i want to see Bale and Nolan do ten Batfilms if they can!