In a summer of forgettable sequels and unimaginative re-imaginings, it should come as no surprise that the first big movie released after the end of summer is not an original idea, but instead a remake of a 1950s classic. What does come as a surprise is just how good that remake actually is.
The 2007 version of "3:10 to Yuma" serves as a reminder of what a real action movie should be. With no CGI, no green screens and no outrageously big explosions, director James Mangold ("Walk the Line") leaves room for some great acting and real character development.
Christian Bale ("Batman Begins") plays Dan Evans, a down on his luck rancher who is on the verge of losing his land and who has already lost the respect of his wife and oldest son.
Desperate for money, Evans agrees to help transport famed killed and robber Ben Wade (Russell Crowe, "Gladiator") to the train station so he can be sent to a prison in Yuma.
While Evans will never understand what makes Wade tick, he soon realizes Wade is not quite the monster he expected. Along the way, Wade's initial pity for Evans and his miserable life turns into a form of respect.
The long and adventures trek finally lands Evans as Wade's sole captor, facing seven hardnosed outlaws looking to set their leader free. When Evans tell his son, "You just remember that your old man walked Ben Wade to that station when nobody else would," it becomes clear that Evans no longer cares just about the money, but also in doing what is right.
The ensuing gun fight is the right mix of stylized camera work and old fashioned straight shots, just the right feel for a remake. The final moments of the film seem a tad unbelievable and out of character with the rest of the film, but the ending isn't totally unsatisfying.
After flops like "Wyatt Earp" and "The Wild, Wild West" in the 90s, the western seemed all but dead as a genre, relegated to direct to DVD and cable TV. But what separates "Yuma" from those duds is a great script and superb acting. In many of the failed westerns, big name actors all seemed to be playing cowboy. In "Yuma," Bale and Crowe are cowboys.
Crowe plays Wade fast and loose, never seeming to take his situation to seriously. What should be a despicable character turns into someone the audience can root for.
Bale continues to prove he is one the great up and coming actors of the time, holding his own against a heavy weight like Crowe.
While most known for his turn as Batman, Bale has been churning out great performances for years, particularly in the cult classic "American Psycho." Bale wisely forgoes the usual hero monologues for a quiet, intense portrayal of a man in over his head.
Easily the best western of the century thus far, "Yuma" will hopefully revive the genre desperately in need of hit.
"3:10 to Yuma" is rated R for violence and some language. It has a running time of 117 minutes.