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October 05, 2007

Don't Watch It: 3:10 To Yuma

I can't discuss my main problems with the movie without spoiling the ending -- though the filmmakers did a fair job of spoiling the ending themselves -- so I'll just make this short.

Acting, fine. Dialogue -- well, it's a talky, slow movie, but the dialogue is okay.

Plot -- ah, there's the rub. Not only is it full of contrivance along the way, but the ending is simply awful. I suspected from the commercials this was a misconceived movie -- they were trying to make Russell Crowe a good guy, which would be fine in a different movie, but in a movie where one good guy (Christian Bale) has to get this other good guy (who's a heartless killer, but he's charming and okay at doodling with pencil and can quote from Proverbs so we know he Has A Conscience), the plot simply doesn't allow for any sort of plausible and satisfying detente between the men. They're at cross-purposes, and one man's farm and another man's life depend on defeating the other; it's just not realistic they could share goals.

The filmmakers know what emotional climax they want to get to but seem to have no idea how to actually get the plot to accommodate them, and so simply force the emotional resolution they want through unspeakably lame sudden changes in heart arrived through ever-more-personal confessions between the male leads.

I swear, at one point I was expecting Bale or Crowe to admit, "One time? At band camp?"

There were any number of easy plotlines they could have selected to get there -- external threats that unite them, like Evil Railroad Pinkerton Goons or the like -- but they rejected those, I guess, as "too easy" and went with something that would really make us think.

It made me think all right. It made me think this movie was a misconceived piece of shit and a waste of any number of good actors.

I should have known the movie was headed in a bad direction when, in two-shots with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe riding on horseback side by side, the director and DP chose to keep neither man in focus. Each man drifts in and out of focus as he moves slightly closer or further from the camera. I assume they knew how to actually keep a single actor in focus, if they chose to; but some theory of "natural focus" or something made them choose to frequently simply let the subject become blurry for no particular reason, except to highlight the reality of the unreality, or the unreality of the reality, not sure which. The only thing it heightened for me was the awareness that I was watching a movie, and furthermore, one apparently lensed by a meth addict with an itchy focus finger.

A charitable two stars just for the plethora of decent actors (including Peter Fonda and Alan Tudyk, and a very distracting cameo from Luke Wilson showing up to play a two-bit heavy -- um, no, don't do that, he doesn't fit and he's too big a star now and we're all just waiting for him to say something funny). But very disappointing and not recommended at all, not even on video.

Action? No, not worth it, not particularly realistic or good. Watch Open Range again, or try the underrated Wyatt Earp. Or try a movie that actually manages a convincing job of uniting a lawman and the fugitive he's trying to bring to justice: Midnight Run.

Incidentally... I have no idea why this movie is rated R. Or rather I know why it's rated R; I just don't know why on earth the filmmakers sought that rating. There isn't enough violence in the film to grab the R; a couple of bloody gunshots and one pulling of a bullet from a gut but I bet they could have gotten away with that in a PG-13 movie. The rating seems to come exclusively from the three or four f-bombs they drop near the film's beginning.

Sometimes studios want an R rating to suggest an adult-themed movie or something, but I don't get the reason to restrict the audience just for the sake of three or four uses of "fuck." I mean, if you're doing Midnight Run or Goodfellas where every other word is "fuck," fine, go with it. But for three or four? They went R for that?

I'm not questioning their taste; I'm questioning their business acumen. The movie's a stiff and they needed all the box office they could get. Why not try to trick some teenage girls into seeing a couple of male hotties?

(On second thought, Bale's 14-year-old son wags a gun around. He does so with lawful intent, but maybe the MPAA has some PC rule about underage boys holding guns, like their PC rule about smoking. So maybe that's the real reason they got the R, and since they were already stuck with that, they threw in a few takes with the f-word in them.)

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posted by Ace at 12:53 AM

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