3:10 to Yuma Movie Review
The western genre was long presumed dead, but it resurrected itself in the form of 3:10 to Yuma, a gritty, violent and meaningful action-drama starring Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Cop Land), 3:10 to Yuma shows that westerns still have a place among modern audiences--especially thanks to a new 4K Ultrade HD Blu-ray release.
The movie is about two men who do what they need to do to survive. Bale plays Dan Evans, a poor farmer who, to prove himself to his son and wife and to earn some much-needed cash, offers to transport an evil criminal named Ben Wade (Crowe) across the desert to the prison train. Even by himself, Wade is a handful - one by one, he manages to kill off his travel partners - but Wade's gang is even more dangerous, and they will do anything to set their leader free (seriously, they shoot people, including their friends, like they're tin cans). As 3:10 nears, Evans finds himself facing the horrible truth: he could die for a man no one else is willing to die for.
3:10 to Yuma is stapled with great performances, some exciting action and a tense story that both modernizes the western genre and embraces it at the same time. Bale and Crowe are great; while neither performance is specifically noteworthy, both actors are solid and play well off one another. Crowe is especially fun to watch as an amoral, violent sleaze bag. Bale matches the Oscar winner's performance. One reason westerns turned south in the last couple of decades is because audiences shied away from the rather stereotypical characters and acting found in the genre, but these actors add a much-needed grittiness to the story.
As for the movie itself, it works on many levels. The characters are well developed and the villains downright evil. Ben Foster, who has repeatedly bucked his rather tiny, dweeby appearance by playing tough or maniacal characters (look to his excellent performance in last year's modern-day western Hell or High Water as further proof), continues to prove that he can exceed expectations as he plays an extremely nasty (both in appearance and attitude) cowboy who will kill anyone who gets in his way. The story is fact-paced without losing its meaning, and Mangold plays up the strange one-way bond that develops between the two lead actors, all the while building up the tension that mounts before the final action sequence.
The ending is long and filled with bullets, though on an initial watching years ago, a character twist made me not appreciate it quite as much. While I liked the way the relationship forms between Crowe and Bale, I didn't completely buy into what takes place in the final moments of the film. On repeat viewing, I've come to respect the ending more, even if still doesn't fully click. That being said, the film ends with a bang, and that's not the only action to be found. There are several other gunfights and killings scattered throughout the movie.
3:10 to Yuma does lag in a few parts, but overall is very streamlined and powerful action-drama that helped pave the way for at least a few more solid westerns in the years that followed. It takes actors like Bale and Crowe to make westerns appeal to modern audiences, but that's just what 3:10 to Yuma delivers here.
On a side note, whether it was the TV or the Blu-ray, I had trouble hearing the dialogue even when the volume was cranked way up beyond normal levels. In other words, I was not overly impressed with the audio balancing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.