3.10 to Yuma
Pitting Russell Crowe and Christian Bale head-to-head guarantees a bout of intense, tortured manliness and this glowering, gripping remake of Delmer Daves’s 1957 Western (adapted from an Elmore Leonard short story) practically fires rounds of solid testosterone. Dan Evans (Bale) is a crippled soldier-turned-rancher, losing both his land to ruthless developers and his despairing family’s respect. Notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) is a scripture-quoting charmer and cold-blooded killer. When Wade is captured, a desperate, penniless Evans joins the posse to transport him to the town of Contention where the titular train will take Wade to jail, his gang in hell-bent pursuit.
What a half-century ago unfolded as a taut, claustrophobic chamber piece is expertly unpacked by Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted director James Mangold and adapters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas into a brooding, psychologically murkier odyssey. Wrestling open the action to include marauding apaches and vigilantes staking their claim on the new frontier scuffs up an already torn and frayed morality. Wade and Evans secretly envy each other; black-hat-white-hat delineations won’t wash here, notably in a starkly flipped ending that actually works best for those familiar with the ‘57 version.
Original thesps Van Heflin and Glenn Ford were sturdy but star (fire)power will out. The rugged, imposing Crowe revels in playing on his charismatic ne’er-do-well persona. Bale, grimly determined to earn his shot at redemption, matches him all the way, with memorable support from Peter Fonda’s hard-bitten bounty hunter and Ben Foster as Wade’s gimlet-eyed psycho lieutenant. Mangold by and large shoots straight with a refreshing leanness in tune with his no-nonsense leads. Climactic motivations do veer from complex to a shade convoluted but overall this 3.10 to Yuma is an unyielding, turbo-charged express, expertly retooled for these ambiguous times. (Leigh Singer)
General release from Fri 14 Sep.