CinemaDave (cinemadave) wrote,

"3:10 to Yuma" is more timely today...

Last summer, I watched the original "3:10 to Yuma" for the first time with my Dad. It was an offbeat movie with actors playing against type; Glenn Ford played the wily bad guy and Van Heflin portrayed the family man burdened with baby sitting an outlaw.

After epic outdoor opening involving a botched robbery, the pace of the second half of the film slowed as the drama focused on the dialog between the hero and villain. Set in a hotel room, the protagonist and antagonist discuss morality, ethics and temptation.

The new "3:10 to Yuma" opens up the narrative considerably and is more epic in scale. Christian Bale portrays Dan Evans, a Civil War Veteran who lost his leg on the field of battle. Dan is married to Alice (Gretchen Mol) and is raising two boys William (Logan lerman) and the Mark (Benjamin Petry), a sickly kid with asthma. Beset by financial problems on all fronts, Dan Evans is desperate to pay off his mortgage.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the very successful bandit of railroads and stagecoaches. On the Evans ranch, Wade and his gang of sociopaths rob a stagecoach under the protection of a grizzled Pinkerton Officer (Peter Fonda). Evans and his sons witness the stagecoach robbery. A 14 year old who reads dime novels, William Evans notes how quick Ben Wade is with a trigger.

As a diversionary tactic, the robbers enter the town and trick the sheriff into visiting the scene of the crime. While enjoying the pleasures of a young barmaid, Ben Wade is captured by Dan Evans. With a big reward on Wade's head, Dan Evans joins the posse and escort Ben Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma.

Directed by James ("I Walk the Line") Mangold, the new "3:10 to Yuma" features chases on horseback, shootouts in railway tunnels and a touching father-son drama. As Rob Zombie does with his "Halloween" revision, Mangold understands the genre he is directing, hopefully he will continue this
relationship in future country western endeavors.

Based on the book by Elmore Leonard, the screenplay moves the narrative along at a brisk pace while creating memorable characters with individual motivations. The final result is a two hour motion picture that feels like an epic experience.

Russell Crowe's Ben Wade is such a nice bad guy, he would make a wonderful politician. With Crowe's intelligence, Wade seems three steps ahead of everybody he is talking too. With his pistol, named the "Hand of God," Wade is lightening quick on the draw as a rattlesnake and lives up to the reputation of a dime store novel. Christian Bale is a man beaten down by life who is given one last chance to redeem himself by escorting Ben Wade to the prison. Bale gives a stoic performance that is only allowed a crack in his icy facade when he discusses his financial vulnerabilities to his wife, portrayed by Gretchen Mol. Mol and Crowe are given a comic scene together at the dinner table as the handcuffed Ben Wade gets the mother to cut his steak for him. Like any kid with an upper hand, Crowe manages to dictate the terms on how he should be fed and which pieces of the steak should be discarded. The humor grows out of the character's relationship.

While "3:10 to Yuma" has been heralded as the best western since Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," these comments ignore some worthy big screen westerns of recent times; Kevin Costner's "Open Range" and Sam Raimi's fun "The Quick and the Dead." The recent Emmy Awards telecast honored **Broken Trail, ** starring Robert Duvall and Thomas Haden Church, as best mini series and is available on DVD. As the John Wayne Centennial has revealed, there is a hunger for good stories, interesting characters and set in the wide open spaces. "3:10 to Yuma" fulfills this need with good popcorn eating entertainment.

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