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3:10 TO YUMA

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Ben Foster, Dallas Roberts, Alan Tudyk, Vinessa Shaw, Logan Lerman
Director: James Mangold
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Lionsgate
Features: See Review
Length: 122 Minutes
Release Date: January 8, 2008

“Call them off.”

“Why should I?”

“Because you’re not all bad.”

“Yes I am.”

Film ***1/2

2007 marked a strong return for the western genre. The movie to thank for its return is the stellar shoot ‘em up, 3:10 to Yuma. Truth be told, it was far from being the absolute best western of the year (that title goes to a film that I will definitely have reviewed once it hits DVD). But it was a deserving hit at the box office, meaning that we may get more westerns in the future, which makes me a happy cowboy for one!

One has to give serious credit to director James Mangold. He is perhaps the most genre-diverse filmmaker to grace the scene since Barry Levinson. He has proven so by directing the best cop thriller of the 90s (Cop Land), one of the GREATEST horror thrillers of ALL TIME (Identity), as well as crafting one stellar music biopic in the form of Walk the Line. Now that Mangold has brought the western back to the big screen, he has truly illustrated that his genre expertise knows no limits.

Added to this is a superb on-screen face off between Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Two of the best actors working day once again bring their A game, delivering a couple of knockout performances. And since both actors are non-American, it makes it even more special in that regard since they are headlining a movie in a most beloved American film genre.

In this remake of a 1957 western starring Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, Crowe steps into the role of ruthless outlaw Ben Wade. After the robbing of a stagecoach, which also included several murders, Ben is captured by authorities. He is sentenced immediately to Yuma penitentiary, but he is first to be escorted to the town of Contention, where a train will carry him straight to the prison.

Enter Dan Evans (Bale), a rancher struggling to do everything to keep him from being forced off his land. Dan happened to witness Wade and his gang’s assault on the stagecoach. For a small fee, Dan helps in the escorting of Ben to the train station.

For Dan, this is more than an opportunity to get a needed reward. He has lost respect from not only his wife (Gretchen Mol), but his son (Logan Lerman) as well. This task is to illustrate that he is a much stronger man than he has appeared to be since he came home from the Civil War with a lost leg.

But there’s one thing that even Ben can’t promise; that their arrival in Contention won’t be threatened by the rest of his gang. Ben’s second in command, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), is insane and quick with the trigger. As he and the rest of Ben’s gang close in on Ben’s escorting party, one can tell right away that hell will find its way in Contention in the form of a standoff.

And the standoff is as exciting and intense as any western shootout could hope to be. It accompanies the last half hour of the movie. The result is a western action set piece that ranks even with likes of The Wild Bunch.

I have to be honest, as much as he has been hailed for past performances, this to me is Russell Crowe’s most brilliant piece of acting to date. It’s definitely his most complex character yet. Crowe’s effortless and deadly charisma adds a level of suspense to his character, as you’re not quite sure if Ben will crossover from all out bad guy to that of an antihero.

Christian Bale also continues his string of strong acting with his performance here. Though his character is more straightforward, he goes through a change or two along the way that do surprise in terms of his motivations. Bale makes for a perfect straight man to play off Crowe’s corruptible charm.

It may be only one of two westerns to come around in several years, but 3:10 to Yuma is a solid and exciting example of a terrifically crafted movie in a genre that is always missed. Thanks to this movie, as well as an even greater western to be reviewed in a few weeks, I honestly feel that the genre has made a stronger than ever comeback.

Video ****

Lionsgate has delivered one of the best western movie presentations to ever grace DVD. The western setting provides a nearly all-outdoor scenery, and you can almost feel the baking of the sun during the daytime shots. No image flaws of any sort are found in this presentation. A tremendous looking presentation of a terrifically shot movie is what you’ll find here.

Audio ****

The 5.1 EX mode provides a most outstanding level of sound to the proceedings. Everything from fast moving horses to flying bullets make for one of the best sounding westerns I’ve ever heard on DVD. You will definitely find yourself immersed in the western setting as a result.

Features ***1/2

Quite a strong loaded barrel of features on this release, starting with a commentary with director James Mangold, three stellar behind the scenes documentaries; “Destination Yuma”, “An Epic Explored” and “Outlaws, Gangs and Posses. Also included is a long list of Deleted Scenes and bonus trailers for several Lionsgate releases.

Summary:

Two top-notch stars, a most reliable director, and a genre revived. What isn’t to appreciate? 3:10 to Yuma is a tense and consistently gripping action packed western that illustrates a remarkable return for a genre that movie lovers never wanna see go away!

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