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STUDIO:  Lions Gate
MSRP: $29.95
RATED:  R
RUNNING TIME:  122 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
- Audio Commentary with Director James Mangold
- “Destination Yuma” – Making-of Documentary
- “An Epic Explored” – Featurette
- “Outlaws, Gangs and Posses” – Documentary
- Deleted Scenes
- 16×9 Widescreen Version
- 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX Audio
- English and Spanish Subtitles
- English Closed Captions

 

THE PITCH

Midnight Run with just a pinch of High Noon.

THE HUMANS

Directed by: James Mangold

Written by: Halsted Welles, Derek Haas, Michael Brandt

Starring: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk, people who are shot about the face and torso



Russell Crowe circa 2008: Throwing people at phones that piss him off.

THE NUTSHELL

Dan Evans (Baleowulf) is just about on his last leg, both figuratively and literally.  Left an amputee by his time served in the civil war and with the clock ticking down on the money he’s borrowed against his house and the fallow land surrounding it doesn’t look to create much in the way of compensation.  With his back against the wall, famed robber Ben Wade (Crowe) strolls into town with his gang of bloodthirsty mates and an act of pure carelessness leaves Wade in the arms of the Pinkertons and railway managers from whom he’s stolen on a frequent basis.  With the foreknowledge that wherever Wade travels, his compatriots will certainly not be far behind, Evans volunteers to take Wade to the town of Contention to put him on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison.  From there, the men find there may be more linking them together than keeping them apart, and many other simmering homoerotic tensions rise to the fore as Evans desperately tries to hold onto his pride and family by delivering Ben Wade to the titular train before his gang catches up them.


“I made it clear when I signed the contract: the ‘Dyk doesn’t get a penny less than 750k or you’re not getting upper mandible.”

THE LOWDOWN

In a year where ‘The West’ was resurgent, if not exactly westerns themselves, it’s interesting that the most straightforward of all of the pictures about the topic is also unequivocally the weakest.  3:10 to Yuma attempts to revive a moribund genre* by telling a straightforward adventure yarn with intentions on reflecting the modern malaise.  Economic distress, psychologically impaired war veterans, the notion that our enemies are perhaps not as inhuman as those with power and means would like to think all speak to our current situation and in theory would make for a rock solid foundation for a gritty retelling of a western classic of yesteryear.  Something is lost in translation though, and while the action set pieces and performances help to anchor the picture and keep it from completely going out of orbit, the screenplay is too unwieldy and bloated to take all of these notions and streamline into one tight and purposeful film.


There’s a certain risk involved in bedpan operations at the Hollow Man retirement home.

As can always be expected, Russell Crowe brings the goods in terms of intensity and charm.  So I have no complaints that America’s go-to choice for dour and troubled, Christian Bale, was his opposite in the movie.  Although a lot has been made (here specifically) about his lack of loosening up and embracing stardom in his roles he fits that dour character type to a T.  His character arcs are almost always clear, which is a credit to the intensity and clarity of his performances.  There’s energy in the rapport between the Bale and Crowe characters from the instant they meet which can only come with two established actors going back and forth.  More has been made of Ben Foster’s performance as Ben Wade’s first, Charlie Prince, than of the work by other actors, but his performance to me while interesting wasn’t the heart of the movie.  The performances that really seal the deal are those of a majority of the supporting cast; Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda and Alan Tudyk all give performances that help the world feel wholly realized instead of just an exercise for the two main characters to work their way through.  Even Luke Wilson brings the goods in a bit part, showing you that Mangold at the very least knows how to get the most out of his actors, even if the movies themselves are a little bit lacking.  He’s benefited greatly by the western genre here, and his work in the action scenes (an early wagon heist reaches a dizzying conclusion) here is worth of commendation.  He doesn’t fall prey to idol worship of the genre, and instead is trying to make an honest-to-god blood, guts and dirt western.  That in and of itself is a laudable attempt on his part. 

Having not seen the original Glen Ford/Van Heflin vehicle I can’t speak to the differences between the two, although a cursory examination of running times will let you know that Mangold saw fit to add fat to the original story, which works both to the movie’s advantage and disadvantage.  It helps in terms of building up each character’s motivation and story so the audience is more invested when Dan Evans starts to haul Ben Wade to the 3:10, but it backfires in that it simply takes too long to get to the meat and potatoes of what is essentially a gussied-up chase picture.  I understand we live in an age of bloat, especially in that of major studio releases and their running times: simple summer entertainments are becoming sprawling three hour epics that require annotated booklets to be distributed at the ticket booths in order to keep up.  Somewhere along the line spare became a way of shooting instead of a way of cutting.  It’s rare a film clocks in around the hour and a half mark without it being either a comedy or having had some sort of massive catastrophe in the editing process.  A movie like this demands an almost psychopathic focus on the journey of the two men, and by expanding the story outward, it loses its intimacy and immediacy.  It no longer speaks to us like it should, despite the writer’s best intentions.


“Dear Mr. Mangold -
From one guy to another, I’m on my knees saying thank you, thank you for using period-specific oil lamps in your picture 3:10 to Yuma.  I was in heaven as Crowe drew on his notepad, just imagining the purity of the light that could come from that sleek, sexy thing with the right amount of kerosene.  Please tell me there’s someone on the Yuma team that could hook me with up some stills of that lamp.  There had to be someone who decided on using that particular brand (that was a Winslow Lewis, right?) on the shoot, so maybe they have some reference shots.  I know you think like I do when it comes to lamps…so from hombre to hombre…you don’t have to be the one to send me the picture yourself.  Have one of your production monkeys do it.  I’m no lampslut either – I won’t be passing this along to lampcentral dot com or any of my other lamp-lovin pals.  Just for me, myself, and those lonely nights when the Clapper just isn’t doing it for me.  Or maybe some unused footage of Crowe turning the lamp on and off.  Lamp outtakes?  Just a thought…
Big props (Girl Interrupted 4 Life!!!1)
- Tom “CHUD/Lamps” Fuchs”

How well the movie works for you will be determined by your response to the final act of the movie, which for me is where the picture ran really off the rails, overlong introductory portion included.  The machinations of the plot that lead the Wade and Evans characters toward Contention don’t feel at home in this more gritty and blood-speckled vision of the West, they instead feel like relics of the old storyline being echoed in the present.  Like listening to a cover song that attempts no new spin on the original material, instead satisfied to wallow in the qualities that made the original solid to begin with.  Even more stupefying is the treatment of the Dan Evans character in this version; their development of the character would lend itself to the notion that they’re attempting to say something about the male psychological need and notions of honor and such, but what they do is in effect castrate the Evans character and make him alien to the viewer instead of sympathetic.  It’s on the movie to make me believe there’s honor in what he’s doing, and that men should hold true to their word, but instead I couldn’t help but be bothered by the nagging feeling that it would be infinitely more honorable for him to go home and find a way to make his living situation work instead of proving himself elsewhere.  Again, chalk this up to the screenplay. 

Overall, I would still recommend the movie, believe or not, especially to those looking for a diversionary western yarn that harkens back to the old method of storytelling.  It’s a little distended and messy, but sometimes that makes a picture all the more endearing to certain cinephiles, and there’s little fault to find with the performances and Mangold’s handling of the action sequences.  While I can’t say that the picture was amongst the better depictions of the west in 2007, it’s an entertaining if uneven excursion into what has become barren genre territory.  Mildly recommended, but with all the warts described above.


“Batman would never have willingly let Ra’s Al’Ghul die on that train.”

THE PACKAGE

The cover art is depressingly bland, focusing on a split screen of its stars instead of sticking with the original poster art; while the gap jeans ad in front of oncoming train poster wasn’t particularly invigorating; its leagues ahead of this eye hate crime.  In terms of extras this disc isn’t bursting at the seams with extra content, but what is here is solid.  You get a commentary from Mangold who talks quite a good game; he’s clearly cognizant of what he’s trying to do with the remake even if it doesn’t entirely work.  The “Destination Yuma” featurette is a little meatier than your standard making-of, and the focus paid to the practical effects work is the most interesting tidbit in all of the extras.  There are a handful of deleted scenes, most of which amount to trims, and a couple of featurettes examining both the evolution of the story and the true origins of the western myth of the outlaw.  Not a great amount of extras, but this is much better than the usual bare minimum effort non special editions get on the DVD market.


“It was a gritty reinvention!”

6.1 out of 10

*I say this with deep-rooted affection.  It seems genres like the musical and the western are simply not viable in this day and age, they don’t speak to the common condition as well as other genres do, or they at least feel outmoded to those with the majority of the power in our current infrastructure; the demographics that buy tickets.  I think the main ideas of the western have been transposed to the gangster film and that the musical is just now beginning to resurface reconstituted as more focused on dance (How She Move, Step Up, etc.) than singing.  This suggests that the old classics don’t necessarily die, they just get reconstructive surgery.  The western and musical genres are members of one big happy cinematic Jackson family.  End digression.