Wednesday, August 01, 2007

EARLY WORD: 3:10 to Yuma

I had the chance to catch a screening of 3:10 to Yuma last night. I'm confident that this is the movie capable of making the Western relevant again. Actually, let me rephrase — it's not that the Western as a genre is patently irrelevant; it's just that no one's made one worth mentioning in years* (ahem). It's interesting, then, that 3:10 will pull in just before buzzed-about vehicles like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and No Country for Old Men (the former being far more hyped than the latter — blame it on the Weeds).

Admittedly, I haven't seen the 1957 original starring Glenn Ford, but according to co-star/all-around zany moonstruck bastard Peter Fonda (who made a brief post-screening appearance and proceeded to scare the shit out of me), it's "dry." (An aside: The source material for this film was a story by Elmore Leonard. Read Duane's great Q&A with the man here.)

The plot follows Dan Evans (Christian Bale), an Arizona rancher and Civil War vet who lost part of his leg in combat. He's both physically and psychologically broken — forever slowed by the injury and emasculated by an extended drought that cripples his herd and renders him close to incapable of caring for his wife (Gretchen Mol) and two sons. But fortune (or rather, survival) manifests itself in the form of notorious highwayman Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), who's captured in the town adjacent to Dan's land.

The law offers Dan $200 to join a caravan (a ragtag group that includes Fonda's bounty hunter) escorting the deadly (and sexy!) Wade to the town of Contention, where he'll board the titular 3:10 train to his own hanging.

Believe it or not, a bunch of crazy shit happens en route.

While director James Mangold's action sequences do not disappoint (a yellow-toothed Luke Wilson is involved in one particularly arm-pinching sequence), it's the perceptive contributions of Bale and Crowe — as well as the curious mixture of respect and disgust that colors their relationship — that make the movie so watchable. But if you want to know who truly stole the show, look no further than Ben Foster, who's probably best-known as Angel from X-Men: The Last Stand.** Here, he portrays Charlie Prince, Wade's right arm, with a volatile mixture of comedy and bloodlust, all crazed, bug-eyed looks and sociopathic swagger. (I noted a bit of a homosexual subtext between his Prince and Wade, as well, which makes it all the more interesting/gay.)

3:10 to Yuma hits theaters September 7.

* Potential exception to this: I haven't seen The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, but I've heard good things.

** Here's an excerpt from a conversation I had with Pat regarding Foster.

Me: "Angel from X-Men 3."
Pat: "I don't know who that is. Wait...the guy with the wings?"
Me: "Yes."


mandamck said...

First off--The wings comment by Pat is priceless
Secondly---I'm in Michigan for 2 weeks so if I run into you at a bar for the third time in a week I'm going to be certain that you're stalking me
Thirdly---Christian Bale.
That's all.

Ainna said...

I love "Cadillac-of-the-Skies" Christian Bale. Hot and talented! Your review has raised my hopes. September 7th is penciled into my calendar.

Paul Tsikitas said...

Just so you know, you should see The Proposition before you say there hasn't been a relevant Western in years. Even though it's an Aussie Western and not an American Western, it's still everything that makes Westerns great. And it was written by Nick Cave (sans the Bad Seeds.) I can't wait for all three of these movies. 3:10 sounds bitching, Weeds-a-polloza Western also has been in my eye for some time and FINALLY a Coen Brothers flick that looks like it shows some sort of promise.

You could say I love Westerns.

Call me Liberty Valance.

Don't shoot me.

Paul Tsikitas said...

The Three Burials is fantastic as well. Less of your typical Western, but a modern day Western nonetheless. Also, Don't Come Knockin' is kind of a Western, but in a strange way. Those Three are all worth watching...

And I'm a loser.