3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 western of the same name. The original is a good if not great western that with some tweaks could be great. Does the remake capitalize on that potential?
A rancher in New Mexico with a wife and two kids, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is struggling. A drought has left his land barely getting by, and he's running out of money to pay off some significant debts. What can he do to save his family and their land? A highly lucrative, highly dangerous option has presented itself. An infamous outlaw and killer, Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), has been captured in the town of Bisbee following a successful payroll robbery. The railroad wants Wade brought to justice, hoping to send him to Yuma Prison where he will be tried and prosecuted, hopefully ending up in a noose. For $200, Dan agrees to go along in transporting Wade to the town of Contention where the outlaw can be put on a train to Yuma. With a small, not too capable posse helping, Dan and Wade hit the trail. Not far behind? Wade's murdering, bloodthirsty gang, looking to free their boss and not caring if they've gotta kill a few people in the process.
The 1957 3:10 to Yuma from director Delmer Daves stars Glenn Ford (as Wade) and Van Heflin (as Dan) in a pretty good but not great western. It's solid. It's entertaining. A remake isn't necessarily needed, but if you're gonna do it right...do it like this.
From director James Mangold, 2007 'Yuma' injects some energy into the western genre. Some of the DVD special features address that aspect, the love of the western, the general death of the western in theatres, and without getting preachy...the need for westerns in theaters. The original is a talkative movie, but the 2007 version is talkative, action-packed, highly entertaining, and features some great performances. Filmed on-location in New Mexico with an Oscar-nominated score from Marco Beltrami, 'Yuma' feels and looks authentic. It's dirty, dusty and grimy with gunplay and death hanging in the air. There's nothing glamorous or romantic about the late 19th Century in the American southwest. Throw it all together though, and we've got a western with a ton of energy that is just fun. It's entertaining. 'Yuma' shows you can be a so-called "adult western" while still having fun.
Who better to inject that energy into a decidedly-American genre? Lead actors from New Zealand and England of course! Crowe and Bale are perfectly cast in their respective roles. Crowe's Ben Wade is a killer, a bandit, brutal, ruthless....but damn, he's charming when he wants to be. Lightning-fast with a gun, he's also freakishly quick with a disarming line. Wade can play mind games with few equals, providing some fun as he messes with his captors. Crowe is clearly reveling in the part, clearly having a ton of fun with the amiable but brutally efficient outlaw. As farmer/rancher Dan Evans, Bale gets the more straight role but similarly throws himself into the part. His Civil War past still weighs on him, and he desperately wants to provide for his family, including his wife (Gretchen Mol) and two sons. While few men would take the risks associated with transporting a notorious outlaw, Dan has no other options. Two fascinating characters.
Crowe and Bale are excellent together, featuring some great banter throughout. The most memorable part though, that goes to Ben Foster as Charlie Prince, Wade's right-hand man, a lightning-fast gunslinger who's also just a touch unhinged. Foster is terrifyingly good here from his wardrobe, to his evil smile to ability with a gun. A great supporting part. Also look for Logan Lerman as Dan's oldest son, Dallas Roberts as Butterfield, the railroad representative, Peter Fonda (who's always welcome) as McElroy, a grizzled Pinkerton agent, Alan Tudyk as Doc Potter, Kevin Durand as the maniacal Tucker, Vinessa Shaw as a madam who meets Wade's liking, and in the odd, out-of-left-field department, Luke Wilson in a random part as a gunslinging miner.
A couple things bugged me on the recent viewing. Trying to stay ahead of the vengeful Prince and Wade's gang, Dan, Butterfield and Co. seem to be in absolutely no rush to get to Contention. They set down and camp....a lot. We're talking long, restful sleeps each night it seems like! Before that, they stop and have a nice dinner at the Evans ranch. Eh, time isn't of the essence or anything, right?
Some plot holes and discrepancies aside, this was a great western. There isn't a ton of action, but what's there is excellent. The opening stagecoach robbery -- featuring a gatling gun! -- is a quality scene-setter and some gunplay is sprinkled throughout until the finale, an exciting, bullet-riddled chase through Contention to the train depot. Where the remake differentiates itself from the original is the mix of drama and action. Mangold knows what he's working with in Crowe and Bale and lets the camera and story stick with his star duo. Their chemistry is without doubt throughout, two pros in a heavyweight fight just waiting to deliver the knockout punch.
As for my general complaint about remakes, do something different if you're gonna remake a movie that didn't need it. The 2007 version does plenty different, including quite a different ending. Some critics took issue with the ending and Wade's reasoning for what he does, but if you're paying attention, clues are dropped throughout as to his intentions. An excellent all-around western that's highly recommended!
3:10 to Yuma (2007): *** 1/2 /****