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Right on track

A review of 3:10 to Yuma


3:10 to Yuma has nothing to do with the Nickelodeon - dude ranch show, Hey Dude.
  • 3:10 to Yuma has nothing to do with the Nickelodeon dude ranch show, Hey Dude.

*3:10 to Yuma (R)

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown
James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma likely won't win a Best Picture Oscar, as Clint Eastwood'sUnforgiven did in 1992. But it does make up for lost time in marking the official return of the western.

A remake of Delmer Daves' 1957 western, this solid adaptation of an Elmore Leonard short story stars Christian Bale and Russell Crowe on opposite sides of the law.

Bale plays Dan Evans, a wounded Civil War veteran and family man whose eldest son Will (Logan Lerman) doesn't respect him. While riding horsebackwith his boy, Dan witnesses a daring robbery executed by a gang of murderous thieves led by Ben Wade (Crowe), a legendary outlaw whose vicious reputation precedes him. When Wade is eventually captured, the local authorities pledge to bring him to justice by way of the 3:10 train to Yuma.

But, of course, that means finding men whom they can trust to deliver Wade to the train station men who won't be tempted to release the criminal for a hearty share of his loot.

With a large payday attached, the money-desperate Dan is the first to volunteer. But it's obvious that his reasons for accepting the challenge are not purely financially motivated; there's a pride element involved alongside his feeling that justice must be served, whatever the cost. While Dan and his cohorts including Peter Fonda as a bounty hunter try to stay one step ahead of Wade's gang en route to contention, he and the ruthless criminal dance an intimate tango of psychological mano-a-mano.

The excellent script, credited to the original's Halsted Welles andthe writing team of Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, has a surprisingly wicked sense of humor delivered with deadpan seriousness by Crowe and Ben Foster, who plays Wade's right-hand man with ferocious intensity. Credit must also be given to Marco Beltrami's atmospheric score.

Unfortunately, director Mangold loses his way during the significantly altered ending, which is reduced to a fairly generic shoot-'em-up climax by far the weakest part of the film.

While the finale gives Foster plenty of action, it's filmed with a lousy sense of space. You can't tell where any of the characters are in relation to one another. It starkly contrasts the staging and choreography of the rest of the film.

Still, Yuma does feature two of the finest actors of this generation in Bale and Crowe, who share a palpable onscreen chemistry. As muchas the audience is pulling for Dan to deliver Wade to that train on time, there's also the feeling these twomen, despite having only just met, somehow complete each other. It speaks to their sense of purpose, akin to the way Al Pacino needed to chase Robert De Niro in Heat.

Ultimately, Oscar-winner Crowe leaves thestronger impression his performance makes for one of the more charismatic movie villains in recent memory but Bale is nearly as impressive, imbuing Dan with a fighter's spirit despite his character'sphysical limitations. And though audiences may assume Wade would take advantage of that situation, it's also clear there's an unspoken mutual respect between the two men that keeps Wade in check.

With a pair of solid performances from two top-notch actors in their primes, the well-written, great-looking 3:10 to Yuma deserves that kind of respect, too.

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