Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Off the Shelf…'3:10 to Yuma'

Let me start by saying that I have never seen the original 3:10 to Yuma so I have no basis for comparison nor did I cry blasphemy at the idea of this remake.  I usually try to see the originals before their remakes (which,most times, are less than flattering) but something about most Hollywood “golden oldie” Westerns just don’t do it for me, so I just didn’t make the effort this time.  Regardless, I have been a big fan of Russell Crowe and Christian Bale and so when this first came out on DVD I gave it a shot and was ultimately very impressed.  Since this was my third time through I just have to say I really like this movie and get more out of it with each viewing.

3:10 to Yuma follows the story of Ben Wade (Crowe) as one of the Southern Railroad’s most infamous outlaws.  Having robbed 21 stage coaches to date, he and his gang are known for being deadly, dangerous and nigh unstoppable.  After the gang’s most recent heist, Wade is (all too easily) captured and it is up to the sheriff, some town volunteers and a lowly farmer (Bale) to transport him to the “3:10″ train to take him ” to Yuma” prison.  While this uneasy and inexperienced band of heroes are on their mission, they are confronted by Wade’s gang, rouge Indians, not to mention some trouble from the captured Wade himself, and all sorts of opposition before the truly exciting climax at the end of the film.

Now Bale and Crowe are two of the finest working actors in Hollywood right now and their talents are mostly unmatched.  That is of course before they were in this movie.  Crowe, in my experience, is always dependable and has no trouble distancing himself and showing his capable range from one role to the other.  The end result of this usually makes for a varied array of characters (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Master and Commander).  I would like to say the same for Bale but taking such an unflattering part left me wanting more.  Sure there were some scenes where he displayed his acting chops but I felt that this was yet another movie, in a series, when he takes the back bench to another actor, thus making his role and all contributions pretty forgettable.  Though, to his credit, Bale had to play this role on the fence between ‘cowardly’ and ‘heroic’ so I think it’s his indecision that did shine (very subtly) although doing so gave more focus to Crowe’s charismatic performance.

I usually can’t say enough good things about Russell Crowe but to me, I was actually more impressed (rather unexpectedly) with Ben Foster‘s “Charlie Prince” character when all was said and done.  Sure, Ben Wade was a vicious bad guy, but, in this film it seems like he was able to remember that he wasn’t always bad, so that caused me to like him a lot.  Therefore you could almost call him a “killer with a heart of gold” but that’s not entirely accurate.  He’s more like a “bored king” who just isn’t content with all that surrounds him so he, in a way, is looking for an out.  However, that said, I enjoyed “Charlie Prince” much more than “Ben Wade” because where Crowe was never really that typically sinister Western villain, Foster stepped up without hesitation.  He had that “you’re not going to like me” demeanor about him which made it all the more interesting.  Prince made it apparent (much like loyal dog) that he had no direction without Wade leading the gang, but you could tell (yes there were hints of it) that he really wanted to keep control of the gang when all was said and done. It was impressive to see Ben Foster show that he could “elbow up to the bar” and hang with two majorly talented actors.

In terms of making this a period piece, this film retained that gritty feeling which Westerns are supposed to have.  They, in no way, made the West look glamorous and they did the best they could to  show the harsh reality that defined the time.  However they held back enough (so you didn’t get the abhorrent hygiene deficiency that ran rampant in Gangs of New York) to let you could actually enjoy looking at the actors…but that’s my humble (esthetically driven) opinion.  I think it’s every little boy’s dream to live in the West, and after seeing this I have to say that I felt the same way I did after seeing Young Guns as a child.  Horses and guns are cool (albeit dangerous) and though living conditions were horrid back then, the child part of me still thinks cowboys are exciting, but if I were given the chance to live that way, I probably wouldn’t last a week on a ranch.

To sum this all up, Westerns, in general, aren’t my genre of choice so it’s difficult for me to get into them, let alone liking something enough to purchase/watch twice.  The cover of this DVD quotes one critic’s praise which reads “The best Western since Unforgiven“.  Now I really liked 3:10 to Yuma but I absolutely hated Unforgiven. It was slow, unimpressive and just didn’t go anywhere…and that one I did watch twice (to give it a chance) but still got nothing out of it.  That said, I thoroughly enjoyed 3:10 to Yuma and rank it up there with Westerns I do like, such as Open Range (which I LOVE), Tombstone and Young Guns II (more of an amateur western but still enjoyable).  So at the end and I really appreciate this film – especially on repeated viewings.  True to form, Crowe delivers while Bale, seemingly content to ‘ride the pine’, is still decent though continually unremarkable.

G-S-T Seal of Approval: GRANTED

3 Comments

  • Aiden R

    I’ve been meaning to review this for a while, one of the best Westerns to come out in recent memory, right up there with The Proposition. Good call on Open Range, too, everyone forgets about that movie. Totally agree that Ben Foster stole the show here, but still, might be the best thing Crowe has done since L.A. Confidential. Anyway, good review, man. A surprisingly kickass movie.

  • mcarteratthemovies

    I am so glad you gave props to Ben Foster — he’s one of the most underrated actors out there today. He was scary-good in “Alpha Dog,” and now this. I hope he starts getting bigger parts ’cause he sure as hell deserves them.

  • rtm

    I’m not a big on Westerns either but I made an exception on this one and actually rounded up my friends to see ’em on the big screen. Crowe’s fantastic as always, his Ben Wade is one of the most charismatic bad boys in movies, which is a testament to his amazing talent. I thought Bale was brilliant here actually, but he’s rather overshadowed by Crowe’s role… and Ben Foster’s scene-stealing presence. Still, a great movie that’s not to be missed.