Ten past three
The release of ‘3:10 to Yuma‘, coinciding with that of ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford‘, got some critics excited about the re-birth of the Western. While two films from Hollywood in one year hardly signifies a renaissance, Ed Harris’ 2008 Western ‘Appaloosa’ certainly suggests there is life left in the genre. Perhaps more significantly, films such as ‘No Country For Old Men‘ and ‘There Will Be Blood‘ – while not belonging archetypally to the genre – hinted at the ways in which the frontier myths could be further explored beyond the cowboy paradigm.
Directed by James Mangold, following his decent Oscar-winning Johnny Cash biopic ‘Walk The Line‘, ’3:10 to Yuma’ is a glossy, hi-octane Hollywood action flick. Those expecting a subtler revision of the Western genre in the mould of ‘Jesse James’ or Clint Eastwood’s peerless ‘Unforgiven’ might be disappointed. Both those films explore the notion of myth and deconstruct the traditional glamourisation of violence in the genre, but 3:10 ignores the revisionism of the latter-day Western, ratcheting up the action and the body count. While those films showed the harsh realities of life in the American West, and the debilitating effect of violence on the human body, 3:10 sees characters recover swiftly from bullet wounds to continue their horseback pursuits.
On paper the cast looks like an exciting proposition, but Russel Crowe severely hams it up as the outlaw baddie, and Christian Bale’s earnest civil-war-vet-trying-to-do-the-right-thing is sadly dull. 3:10′s gun-slinging blood-thirstiness might appeal to fans of Sam Peckinpah more than those of, say, Sergio Leone or John Ford: it is neither grittily realistic nor Golden-age romantic. A remake of a 1957 film of the same name, originally based on 1953 Western short story by Elmore Leonard, there are few surprises in a film that adds little of fresh import or imagination to the genre.