Andy Bockelman: ‘Yuma’ brings back the Western genre
The Western genre is revamped in “3:10 to Yuma,” but not quite as successfully as it should be.
Arizona rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) has not had an easy life; besides being seriously injured in the Civil War, he is now being run off his land. As he shirks from confrontation, he loses the respect of his family, particularly his oldest son William (Logan Lerman). To make matters worse, his cattle are used as a distraction in a stagecoach robbery perpetrated by outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his gang. When Wade is soon apprehended by the law in nearby Bisbee, Evans reluctantly agrees to join the posse of riders who will be escorting the criminal to the train station in Contention.
However, Wade’s second-in-command, trigger-happy Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), has no intention of letting the group put his boss on the prison train to Yuma.
Crowe is incredibly potent as charismatic villain Wade, adding yet another gripping character portrayal to the lengthening list that includes Maximus Decimus Meridius (Gladiator), John Nash (A Beautiful Mind), and Jim Braddock (Cinderella Man) to name a few.
Bale is almost completely surpassed, which is a shame, because he is certainly giving his all. Foster has his moments as Wade’s vicious right-hand man, but much like in the depraved “Alpha Dog” the young actor just seems out of his element. The supporting players contribute heavily, among them Peter Fonda as a gruff bounty hunter, Alan Tudyk as a nervous but courageous doctor along for the ride, and Gretchen Mol as Evans’s weary wife.
The movie can easily be likened to a roller coaster, but that is not to say that it is fast-paced. The ups and downs are dizzying because while it boasts impressive action scenes and strong acting, it suffers from overlength and a convoluted plot. Jacking up the violence is an obvious way to go, but “3:10” flops in terms of remaking the 1957 film of the same name. Not only is it short on the humorous tone that is ever-present in the work of author Elmore Leonard (who wrote the short story upon which the movie is flimsily based), but it changes the ending from the original story in a way that just does not hold up well.
Director James Mangold (“Walk the Line”) clearly wants to be innovative in bringing back a genre that has not had many entries recently, yet he still relies on countless formulaic processes and does little to improve upon the initial version rather than to increase the bullet count.
“3:10 to Yuma” certainly has a lot to offer, considering its handsome cast. All in all, it is an admirable movie, especially regarding the battle of wills between Wade and Evans that is excellently brought to life by Crowe and Bale. Unfortunately, problems such as the overly complicated story and the drastic atmospheric alterations prevent the film as a whole from picking up the steam that it really needs.
Those familiar with the Van Heflin feature from 50 years ago will most likely agree that this new entry is unlikely to be the definitive rendering of Leonard’s story.
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