Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Weeks Too Late: 3:10 To Yuma

3:10 To Yuma. Directed by James Mangold & Written by Halsted Welles, Michael Brandt & Derek Haas.

Preconceptions: While waiting on tenterhooks for the new Coen Brother's western to finally be out (eee! just a few more days), I decided it would be fun to look at the last big popular western, 3:10 to Yuma (and since I'm pretty sure Mangold got paid per the times he made actors say 3:10 to Yuma, I'm going to see if I can get on the same trolley by typing 3:10 to Yuma as frequently as possible). I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about this flick and was excited to see it.

General Review
: Seriously. They must have said 3:10 to Yuma four or five times during the course of the movie and every time it raised my hackles. "Quit being self aware, movie that isn't meant to be self aware," I shouted.
As I watched the opening scenes, which were totally devoid of action, I felt rather like Homer and Bart seeing Paint
Your Wagon:

Christian Bale seemed to be some sort of pacifist of the old west and once we cut away from him, we find the notably surly Russel Crowe doing wildlife sketches. I jest, but it does take a while to get into the gun fighting and whoring. And there is a lot of philosophical debating between action sequences. In a show like Deadwood, filled with likable and complex characters, I'm content to let them soliloquize at me. In 3:10 to Yuma, where the hero is a a wuss and most of the supporting cast might as well be cut outs, I am not transported by the navel gazing.

It wasn't all grizzled men spitting and wondering about the meaning of it all, however. It was nice to see Alan Tudyk getting work (though the razor quick among you won't be surprised to hear that he's still a leaf on the wind) and I can think of few places where I've seen Russel Crowe used to better effect. It is a strange and disturbing universe when I enjoy him substantially more than Christian Bale, so kudos to you Russel Crowe and your genuinely charming portrayal of a charismatic psychopath. Despite the creepy thinness of his beard, Ben Foster played an unusually loyal second in command and it was a nice change of pace from the cartoonishly back stabbing second.

The score was also something to write home about. It evoked Ennio Morricone's work in the Spaghetti Westerns without blatantly ripping it off (no soulful whistling for one). The directing was competent if not particularly noteworthy and the setting is gorgeous. The action sequences (when you get to them) aren't confusing or sickening and the last battle is just plain cool (it reminded me of more than one frustrating escort quest in video games).

All in all, it really didn't need to be the full two hours. There wasn't enough character meat or spectacle to keep my attention for that long. Ignore all your natural impulses, because Christian Bale really isn't worth noting, but Russel Crowe is. If you like the genre (and, inexplicably, you haven't seen this yet), you'll probably enjoy 3:10 to Yuma, but only as a place holder. It's alright fodder while waiting for the next great western comes along. Unfortunately, this isn't that great western.

Aside: I know it's more than a little nit pick-y, but in a scene towards the end of the movie, Christian Bale asks a Federal Marshal to prove his credentials. The Marshal put his badge under the door to prove he's legit. He then walked into the room, still wearing his badge. The rest of his guys walked into the room, still wearing their badges. Then Christian Bale throws the badge back at the Marshal, who continued to be wearing it. I guess they carry spares?*

*This review has been brought to you by embedded video and 3:10 to Yuma (clip used without permission but assuming fair use for the purpose of review).

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