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Rated 2.93 stars
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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Not a Trite Western
by Diana Saenger

Hold your horses! Not since Unforgiven in 1992 has Hollywood made a contemporary Western that was worth its dust. With the Lionsgate remake of 3:10 to Yuma, based on a short story by Elmore Leonard, the Western is not only back, this version may be one of the best movies of the  year.

Viewers old enough to have seen the 1957 original 3:10 to Yuma starring Glenn Ford as the self-assured villain Ben Wade and Van Heflin as the honorable and downtrodden Dan Evans, may not remember it, but they -- as well as younger movie fans -- can now take a look at that film, which has just been remastered and released by Sony Home Entertainment.

In the new release, Russell Crowe nails the character of Ben Wade, a cocky, take-what-he-wants cowboy with a posse of men as loyal as terrorists are to the Taliban. He steals Dan Evans's (Christian Bale) cattle to use them to stop the Southern Pacific Railroad stage coach and rob it of its gold.

After the shoot-out is over, bodies are strewn around and Wade's men are collecting their loot when Dan and his two sons William (Logan Lerman) and Mark (Benjamin Petry) approach Wade. Dan insists on getting his cattle back, and Wade surprisingly has no problem returning them.

Wade is soon caught, but railroad representative Grayson Butterfield (Dallas Roberts) knows he needs help in order to get the criminal on the 3:10 prison train to Yuma. Already missing one leg he lost in the Civil War, Dan is in no shape to volunteer, but he has no money and is about to lose his ranch. The 200 dollars Butterfield offers entices Dan in, along with wounded bounty hunter Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda) plus a host of misfits.

In one incident after another the men realize they are no match for Wade's men, especially psychopath Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), who would slay everyone in a rest home for their chocolate pudding. Killing, for him, comes as easy as breathing.

Something happens to Wade while he's being transported. While he actually believes he'll get free, even brags about it, something about Dan gets under his skin. Maybe it's when they park him at Dan's home where he sees that Dan's wife Alice (Gretchen Mol) has lost any admiration of her husband and that his boys find little to replicate in their deficient father.

This remake stays close to the original in plot. What makes the newer version an edge-of-your-seat thriller is the snappy dialogue by screenwriters Michael Brandt & Derek Haas, a beautiful and authentic production by director James Mangold (Walk the Line) and incredible performances by Crowe, Bale and Foster.

Crowe (Cinderella Man) has the best possible role ever here. Ben Wade offers one surprise after another. He has great sexual chemistry with a bartender (Vinessa Shaw). He's an enigma, quoting Bible verses and sketching things on paper. He zeroes in on Dan and rarely lets us know if he's going to let the simple man live or let his gang get at him. Crowe seems especially confident in several scenes where he's actually funny or wise cracking some of the great dialogue written for his character. One scene that comes to mind shows him kicking back on a bed in the bridal sweet of a hotel and folding his handcuffed hands behind his back while he tries to outwit Dan with his banter.

Christian Bale, soon to play Batman again, keeps upstaging himself at every turn. In his most recent movie, Rescue Dawn, he went through extreme physical changes to ready himself for that role. 3:10 to Yuma is no different. Dan Evans is a man who toves with every burden he bares increasing the depth of each footprint, and through Bale's portrayal we feel the pain of every one of those steps. Yet Dan has an undying motivation to do the right thing, no matter what the circumstances. Even when Wade says he’ll pay him more money to let him go than the $200 he's getting, Dan refuses. He's figured out whatever pride he can offer his boys about their father has no price.

Foster (Hostage) is the real surprise here. He molds his role into one big jagged piece of ice. Charles comes across as steely, calculated and conniving -- one of those characters you love to hate.

A major asset behind the camera, cinematographer Phedon Papamichael (Walk the Line) captures the scenery magnificently, but he also films key characters in a way that brings them to life before our eyes.

While bullets flying and men running seem to be a big part of this movie, it's really the match of wits and gumption that makes 3:10 to Yuma so engaging. It's one ride you may want to take more than once.

(Released by Lionsgate and rated "R" for violence and some language.)

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