“Even bad men love their mommas.”
Rated R. Out on DVD. Directed by James Mangold, based on an Elmore Leonard short story. Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster & Peter Fonda.
In the year of the Westerns that weren’t really Westerns (No Country for Old Men, The Assassination of Jesse James, There Will Be Blood), 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 film, was a throwback to the old-time Westerns, and while it did not have the same aspirations as the other films, it is as entertaining a film as any that came out in 2007. With solid performances from its two leads, a standout supporting performance and a couple of great shootout scenes, it is almost as good as a standard Hollywood movie could be.
The plot is pretty straightforward — a struggling rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale), wounded in the Civil War, crosses paths with outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), a notorious train robber that Evans’ own son idolizes based on dime-store books he’s read throughout his childhood. When Wade is apprehended (and you think, if Ben Wade is such a legendary criminal, then he has to be smart enough to not get caught, but by the end it gets explained), Bale volunteers to join a posse headed by a Pinkerton (Peter Fonda) to escort Wade to a train, the 3:10 to Yuma, which will bring him to prison. The catch is that Wade’s gang, led by his right-hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) is still out there, determined to kill anyone in order to free their leader.
The performance to remember from the movie is Foster’s, as an unhinged, psychopathic killer with an undying sense of loyalty, for which he absolutely deserved an Oscar nomination. There are online discussions of whether or not Foster’s character is a closeted homosexual, which I did not pick up on at all, but decide for yourself. Bale is in fine form, as always, showing the weariness of his character and his desperate desire for his son to look at him the way he looks at Wade. As Wade, Crowe is often awesome, but you never quite get the impression that he’s as bad a guy as his reputation would suggest. You look at Crowe, and you think, “he can’t be THAT bad a guy” — so while he’s a total badass, we know that somewhere down there he has a heart, which sort of takes away some of the suspense.
Another issue is a pretty distracting cameo part way through the movie, and I could not stand Evans’ son, the stereotypical annoying, rebellious teenager. You understand quickly that the son doesn’t respect his weak, crippled father, but the movie beats that over your head in case you couldn’t pick it up on your own. Overall, though, 3:10 to Yuma was one of the better movies of the year, a strong, entertaining popcorn flick through-and-through.