Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Gladiator vs Batman

A Beautiful Mind gets taken away by an American Psycho...or is it the other way around, in 3:10 to Yuma.

Wouldn't that be an interesting movie? I mean, they have Alien vs Predator (or AVP for attention deficient people like me) so why not have Australian Russell Crowe the Gladiator against British Christian Bale the Batman? And why not put them in a slow burn character driven American Western? And why not call the movie 3:10 to Yuma? Could you imagine Russell Crowe hurling an 19th century telegraph machine at Bale in a fit of rage? That would definitely leave a mark.

My wife is a big Christian Bale fan so you may see a pattern of Bale driven films show up here as we watch them. In 3:10 Bale plays Dan Evans, a hardluck Arizona rancher on the edge of foreclosure and missing a leg from the Civil War. Evans is desperate as he gets pushed around by his landlord and gets no respect from his wife and kids. By fate, Evans and his clan come across Stagecoach robber Ben Wade played by Russell Crowe. Wade is calculating and seductive as he reads people and preys on their weaknesses. After Wade is captured by authorities, the Stagecoach / Train representative offers a big pay day to anyone who helps put him on a train to Yuma prison. Seeing at a last shot at money and respect, ex-sharpshooter Evans takes the job along with a rag tag group of people to take Wade miles away to his destination.

Along the way people die as they encounter Indians, ruthless Train employees and Wade's own gang. Not to mention Wade himself as he would manuever his captors into a vulnerable position and execute them one by one. But throughout, Wade strikes up a relationship with Evans as he is facinated with this extremely moral yet ambiguous person. Their interactions create the heart of the story, the cynical killer who may be capable of compassion against the righteous yet mysterious rancher. Both Crowe and Bale excel in their roles and play to their strengths as Crowe oozes confident charisma as Bale hard bitten flintiness comes to fore. Is Evans corruptable? Is Wade reformable even if he is expected to be hanged? These questions play throughout the film.

In a classic High Noon Western style (the film is a remake of a 1957 Western) it all comes down to getting Wade on the 3:10 train to Yuma. All of the themes about the need for respect, the desire for money and the overall fairness of the Universe come to a head. Director James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk the Line) continues in his style of developing underdog characters taking on difficult odds. Mangold's excels at getting actors to gel together (the performance he got out of Sylvester Stallone for Cop Land is inspiring) and that definitely works well here. He renders the Old West as a dirty and untamed frontier in which lawlessness just may be the law.

3:10 to Yuma wasn't the shoot 'em up I thought it would be, instead it was something better: A character driven Western with interesting people and memorable situations. Even when characters do something dumb (and they do some dumb things in this movie) it comes across as entirely human and believable. So I say, catch the 3:10 to Yuma! Too corny? Yup, I reckon that's so.


Jeannie said...

Wow- what a fabulous review! There is absolutely nothing I can add to that. You've captured the movie perfectly.

Mr. Mike said...

Thank you Bunny!

pamwax said...

I love westerns and your great review has peaked my interest. Guess I will have to see the film when I get a chance.

BTW..glad to hear you are feeling better.

Mr. Mike said...

Thanks pamwax! I appreciate the well wishes and I almost feel normal which is great.