With the 100th review old news and the one year anniversary of the blog itself done and dusted, I’m feeling a bit of post-landmark depression. Still, best cure for that is to keep typin’ and reviewin’ until I hit the next notable event. Erm, just pretend there’s a nice segue here into the review…
When notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is captured, a posse is thrown together – including penniless rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) – to escort him to the town of Contention, where the 3:10 train to Yuma prison will arrive. The plot itself was pretty decent, with the unwavering goal to get to the train acting as a good yardstick, i.e. here are some people, people got bad person, people got to get bad person to train. Simple as your average Family Guy fan. Christian Bale was passable as Dan Evans, but it is by no means his most memorable role. Bale only seems to have two roles in films these days- normal, bland straight man or ridiculously gruff, gravelly voiced hero. It’s a crying shame too as I can’t believe the star of American Psycho has so few strings to his bow. Anyway, Russell Crowe is also pretty good as Ben Wade, but I do have some problems with his character. Some new paragraph kind of problems… (that is the last time I do that stupid lame joke- I promise)
Ben Wade is supposedly the bad guy of the piece and to be fair, he does do some bastardly things (including a song-induced stabathon and pushing a man off a cliff for insulting his mother – “Even bad men love their mothers.”) but he also draws pictures of birds and at one point even the garden variety, often spotted, brooding Christian Bale. It’s such a blatant indication that Wade isn’t all bad he may as well sign the pictures “Mr. Fucking Sensitivity” and dot all the “i”s with little lovehearts. I wanted Wade to be bad in the way that only outlaws in Westerns can be: kill 50 guys and rape a barwench before brunch, not drawing pictures and the like. I’m not saying that there isn’t any room for well-rounded characters in my book, it’s just that it’s done so heavy handedly it’s quite jarring and ended up painting Wade with the same bland brush as a certain Mr. Bale.
The only people who really stood out in the film were the surprisingly strong supporting cast, who had to do so much supporting their knees were buckling. We have the gruff Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda), the twitchy Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk) and the psychotic second in command to Wade, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster). Foster was genuinely fantastic as Prince and it baffled me why he was the understudy and Wade was the head honcho. Prince makes more impact in 5 minutes than Wade does in the entire film. Credit goes to Ben Foster, who has continually impressed me in everything I’ve seen him in and definitely deserves to be a bigger name.
The third act should have been a solid, tension filled rollercoaster ride with the added time pressure of whether Evans gets Wade to the prison train on time or not. Whilst it does have a lot of gunfire and bullets whizzing about, it didn’t do anything new. We’ve seen all this stuff a thousand times before and frankly, I’m bored of it. If you can’t do something new with your film, why try? Unfortunately, the answer is an in-my-face “To make lots of money” which leaves me to slink off defeated. Amidst all the squibs, there is some truly baffling character development where Evans and Wade start gushing their life stories to each other with no reason why. I rewound to check if I’d missed anything, but no- it is completely unprovoked.
3:10 To Yuma is an average film. It won’t set your world on fire, but it might lightly singe the edges, which I suppose is OK. It’s a solid Western, but by no means essential viewing.