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This week:
3:10 to Yuma

Filthy says:
"Howdy, y'all, how y'all doing, y'all?."

3:10 to Yuma is really fucking bloody. Horror flicks have nothing on the bloodshed here. In fact, the only equivalent I can come up with was the time Mrs. Filthy pierced her own ears with a Bedazzler and got disoriented doing it while watching in the bathroom mirror. That made such a gruesome mess I had to go to the Amoco to piss for two weeks. In the case of this movie, blood is sort of the point. Director James Mangold has borrowed heavily from Sam Peckinpah, who used to make westerns that fetishized gore. He did birds picking at desiccated bodies and gory shootouts in slow motion, mostly to de-romanticize the general notion of the old west, only to romanticize a much more vicious image of it.

Here, Mangold is pretty fucking slavish to the traditions of classic westerns. The landscapes are all John Ford dryness and jagged rocks, the shootouts are Peckinpah and the themes are, well, just about all of the westerns, but especially Shane and all the others about a modest man who proves his courage, or a bad guy who isn't all bad. Like I said, just about all of them.

Christian Bale is a struggling rancher who was crippled during the Civil War. The evil local baron wants to take his land because the railroad is coming and the property will be worth more than he sold it to Bale for. Bale's a self-pitying fuck whose older son considers him a pussy after the baron burns down the barn and he does nothing to retaliate.

Bale and his boys then witness the Jesse James-like Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) rob a payroll wagon, mercilessly killing many men. The thieves leave one man alive but in bad shape, so Bale hauls his sorry old ass to town, where he runs into Crowe again, and helps in his arrest. There is a tense relationahip with them as Bale asks for what he thinks he is owed and Crowe gives it to him, even though he could just as easily shoot him in the nuts.

In town, Crowe seduces the lady bartender in the saloon. The scene is pretty laughable, but is supposed to let us know that Crowe is a particularly smooth and silver-tongued bad guy. Later, Crowe woos ladies with nothing more than the manners were supposed to learn in first grade. Hell, if I knew saying "Yes, ma'am could get me laid, I'd say it instead, "Suck it, bitch," every time an old lady tells me I should hold the door for her.

Because he needs money so badly so as not to lose his ranch, Bale offers to be part of the posse that takes Crowe to the train station in a town a couple of dangerous days' travel away. They want to get Crowe on the 3:10 to a Yuma prison before his gang can catch up and kill them all. The trip is perilous, of course Crowe's henchmen are in hot pursuit. There are also murderous Apaches, blown up train tunnels and bloody shootouts. Finally, and most obviously, Bale's son sneaks out of his house against his father's will, and joins the posse. And of course, he proves his mettle and learns that the father he thought was a coward is a lot braver than almost any other man. A little less predictably, Crowe grows to respect Bale, ultimately helping the crippled rancher put himself on the train and outwit his own mob.

James Mangold shot one beautiful fucking movie. Granted, westerns lend themselves to grand vistas and parched landscapes a little better than, say, the Girls Gone Wild oeuvre. On the other hand, they don't have nearly as many porn stars posing as vacationing and horny coeds. Still, the first half of the movies looks every bit as good looking as John Ford's dry cowboy flicks. It is also fantastically economical in its storytelling for the first hour. Many details are shown rather than told. They are slips of paper, the flash of a gun and slight gestures. In its second half, the movie loses faith in the small things and spoils it with some lame exposition, such as when Bale explains that he's risking his life so his son knows he isn't a coward. And Crowe's conversion to respecting Bale uses more words than it needs to.

As far as originality goes, 3:10 to Yuma has none. Hell, it doesn't even want it. After all, it's a remake of a 50-year-old Glenn Ford movie. It's not trying for verisimilitude to the real old west. What Mangold wants is similarity to the classics that have gone before. It's all supposed to feel familiar, but more modern by being bloodier and be letting all the characters express their feelings. That's the part that sucks; all the feelings. Hell, if I wanted that I'd crash another Red Hat Society afternoon tea.

Remember when the kid is yelling for Alan Ladd to come back at the end of Shane? It's not what the kid yells that's important. It's what he doesn't yell, which is that he really admires and respects him, to the point of maybe loving him. Not in any gay way. If Mangold did a remake, the kid would yell, "Shane, come back! I love you! Not in a gay way! In a way that means you've taught me so much about what true courage is, and what respect is and the difference between right and wrong." Then, when Shane didn't come back, there would be a few scenes of a support group of others Shane didn't return to, and they would all work out why he was important in their lives.

Westerns should be taciturn and about as willing to say what they mean as a sober auto mechanic. It should all be in the gestures. Still, 3:10 to Yuma is a hell of a good-looking flick, well-made, well-acted and pretty damn exciting. four Finger's worth, for sure.

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Thelma Adams of US

Balls of Fury is "A fast, furious and sublime comedy. A great way to laugh away the summer. Christopher Walken is dazzlingly silly!"

Stardust is "a combination of grand adventure, magical effects and a romping sense of fun!"

Filthy's Reading
Raymond Chandler - Playback

Listening to
Cracker - Kerosene Hat