Ranch­ers and Rus­sellers

The stars are well cast in this rugged, en­joy­able west­ern re­make, writes Michael Dwyer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

3:10 TO YUMA Di­rected by James Man­gold. Star­ring Rus­sell Crowe, Chris­tian Bale, Ben Fos­ter, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Dal­las Roberts, Alan Tudyk, Vi­nessa Shaw 15A cert, gen re­lease, 122 min MOVIES based on El­more Leonard’s sto­ries have mostly been mis­fires, apart from a few honourable ex­cep­tions such as Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and in par­tic­u­lar, Out of Sight. The first screen adap­ta­tions of his work were a cou­ple of sturdy 1957 west­erns, al­though Leonard was oddly un­happy with both: The Tall T, di­rected by Budd Boet­ticher, and 3:10 to Yuma, the Delmer Daves film of a Leonard short story pub­lished in Dime West­ern mag­a­zine.

A taut black-and-white pro­duc­tion that starred Glenn Ford and Van He­flin, 3:10 to Yuma now gets the Hol­ly­wood re­make treat­ment. Di­rec­tor James Man­gold moves from the coun­try-and-west­ern mi­lieu of Walk the Line to de­liver a fe­lic­i­tous homage to the west­ern, a genre that re­gret­tably has be­come an en­dan­gered species in con­tem­po­rary cin­ema.

The new Yuma, which is in colour, makes au­then­tic use of icono­graphic lo­ca­tions and land­scapes as it es­tab­lishes a re­la­tion­ship be­tween two men on op­po­site sides of the law. In the Ford role, Rus­sell Crowe plays Ben Wade, a charis­matic, no-non­sense out­law whose his­tory of stage­coach rob­beries has made him a wanted man.

Chris­tian Bale takes over from He­flin as Dan Evans, a mild­man­nered, im­pov­er­ished rancher, dis­abled in the US Civil War and strug­gling to hold on to his prop­erty. His im­pres­sion­able 14-year-old son Will (Logan Ler­man) shows more re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion for Wade, and even Evans’s wife (Gretchen Mol) seems to have given up on her hus­band.

She is one of just two women in the movie; the other is a bar­tender (Vi­nessa Shaw) whose li­ai­son with Wade re­sults in his cap­ture. Des­per­ate for money, Evans joins the vol­un­teers of­fered an en­tic­ing fi­nan­cial re­ward for es­cort­ing Wade to the Ari­zona town of Con­tention and putting him aboard the 3:10 train to Yuma, where he will stand trial.

The movie would not be quite so in­ter­est­ing if it did not get more com­pli­cated than that, and it does, not least when an un­ex­pected mu­tual re­spect de­vel­ops be­tween Evans and Wade. The drama is set against the build­ing of the rail­road sys­tem in the af­ter­math of the civil war, but the law of the gun pre­vails. 3:10 to Yuma im­plic­itly sug­gests that this re­mains a way of life – and death – in con­tem­po­rary Amer­ica, and not just for adults, given the trig­ger-happy na­ture of young Will, who claims that he can shoot and ride faster than any of the men bring­ing in Wade.

The ac­tion se­quences are vig­or­ously staged in classical west­ern style and ac­com­pa­nied by a stir­ring Marco Bel­trami score in the En­nio Mor­ri­cone tra­di­tion. How­ever, the re­make is short on the com­pelling ten­sion of the orig­i­nal, per­haps be­cause it’s a half-hour longer, and fal­ters in its res­o­lu­tion.

The ac­tors com­pen­sate, with Crowe and Bale giv­ing char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally im­mersed and in­trigu­ingly shaded per­for­mances. The strong sup­port­ing cast no­tably in­cludes the promis­ing young Ler­man, an un­recog­nis­ably aged Peter Fonda as a wounded Pinker­ton bounty hunter, and, steal­ing ev­ery one of his scenes, Ben Fos­ter asWade’s loyal, psy­chotic side­kick.

Dead or alive: dap­per ban­dit Rus­sell Crowe un­der guard in 3:10 to Yuma

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