(No longer in theaters)
Sep 7, 2007
3:10 to yuma, the second adaptation of a fifties Elmore Leonard short story (from back when he wrote oaters), has two things going for it. The first is simply its genre—and the nostalgia many of us feel for Westerns in which heroes struggle to cling to their ideals in a craven society. The second is Russell Crowe, normally an actor who disappears so far into his characters you’d swear his DNA has been altered. As Ben Wade, gang leader and murderer, he gives an ironic performance, but Crowe’s irony is more intense than other actors’ obsession. He turns the idea of having so few emotions—of being beyond caring—into a bloody joke. He upstages everyone with his laughing eyes.
Leonard’s story was basically two men—deputy and outlaw—in a hotel room waiting for a train to prison while the bad guy’s gang amasses in the street below, poised to save him from hanging. It still is, although the film, directed by James Mangold, carts in everyone from the family of the hero (Christian Bale) to an evil rancher (he wants the hero’s farm) to prostitutes to Chinese railroad builders to a Pinkerton man played by Peter Fonda—the onetime counterculture hero channeling, very amusingly, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. The editing is tense and there’s mucho splatter but the climax is unforgivable for reasons I can’t spell out—and owes something to a recent picture I can’t name. As spoilers go, it would be a hanging offense.