The Train Has Left the Station, 9 September 2007
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA
A down-on-his-luck rancher (Christian Bale) attempts to restore some honor to his name, regain the respect of his young sons, and put some money in his pocket by escorting a murderous criminal (Russell Crowe) to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison in James Mangold’s update of the 1950’s Western of the same name based on a short story by Elmore Leonard.
Westerns are a hard sell these days. Unless taking the radical deconstructionist route like the neoclassic “Unforgiven” or the bold avante-garde take of last year’s vastly underrated “The Proposition,” the genre often comes across as stale and unwelcome. The only other film to play it straight recently was Kevin Costner’s “Open Range” in 2003, and that movie was only a moderate success. “3:10 to Yuma” lacks the reverent and epic scope of Costner’s piece, but makes up for it in grittiness and a valiant attempt at psychological complexity.
Unfortunately “3:10 to Yuma” is awash in genre clichés from the robbing of a stagecoach, to the stoic wife/mother at the homestead (Gretchen Mol), to the depiction of Native Americans as mythical phantom threats ready to scalp and kill anyone in their path. Also distracting are the “cameos” that range from a welcome Peter Fonda as a morally questionable bounty hunter to an unwelcome Luke Wilson complete with green teeth as an unnecessary mining posse leader. Likewise the supporting cast is hit or miss with Logan Lerman showing some decent range as Bale’s eldest son while Ben Foster fails miserably at being method as the insane sharp-shooter hellbent on rescuing Crowe from the gallows.
The film’s saving graces are director Mangold’s traditionalist leanings in pacing and Western iconography and the lead performances from Bale and Crowe–two great actors who sometimes resort to scenery-chewing and are shockingly subdued and nuanced here in their multiple physical and mental face-offs. “3:10 to Yuma” culminates in a fantastic finale at the train station that is entertaining enough to forgive the cattle cars of clichés, buy not enough to make the audience wish they would resurrect the genre more often.
Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database