Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Gretchen Mol, Peter Fonda | R |
Hollywood hasn't successfully revived the western since 1992's Unforgiven, but 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 film, makes a compelling case for bringing 'em back. Crisply directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line), Yuma boasts galloping horses and rifle play, but its real appeal lies in the intriguing psychological duel that develops between its two lead characters.
Ben Wade (Crowe) is a notorious bandit who is charming, dapper and ruthless. He's everything that stalwart Dan Evans (Bale), a one-legged Civil War vet turned failing rancher in Arizona, is not. Desperate for the risky job's $200 payday, Dan volunteers to escort a captured Ben onto a train bound for a Yuma prison. Over the course of the tense journey—Ben's posse intends to free him—the two come to appreciate each other despite conflicting moral philosophies.
"It's man's nature to take what he wants," argues Ben.
"Maybe, but I make an honest living," counters Dan.
Crowe, who's terrific, brings wit and wile to his role, while Bale, equally accomplished, offers the purposeful intensity of a man doing what a man's gotta do.
The Hunting Party
Richard Gere, Terrence Howard, Jesse Eisenberg | R |
Richard Gere may be totally gray now but he sure isn't slowing down. Following up on his sensational performance last spring as con man author Clifford Irving in The Hoax, the actor now offers another artfully amusing turn as a journalist-cum-adrenaline junkie in the comic thriller The Hunting Party.
He plays hard-drinking Simon Hunt, a onetime famous war correspondent whose career hit the skids after an infamous, on-air meltdown during the Bosnian conflict. Simon sets out, five years after the war has ended, to personally capture a notorious war criminal (against whom Simon has a very personal grudge) who's in hiding. He is joined on this wild and woolly mission by his former cameraman (Howard), who now holds down a cushy job shooting a network anchorman, and a still wet-behind-the-ears Harvard graduate (Eisenberg) whose dad is a big muck-a-muck at the network.
While the movie is fast-moving and often darkly humorous, director Richard Shepard (The Matador) never quite succeeds at getting Party to make the leap from clever to compelling. Gere provides most of the spark here, though Howard, his hurting eyes as eloquent as ever, does a solid job playing the reluctant helpmate and Eisenberg earns laughs as their eager-beaver assistant. Party's improbable story was partially inspired by actual events; a cheeky caption at the outset reads, "Only the most ridiculous parts of the movie are true."
Shoot 'Em Up
Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci | R |
If Bugs Bunny and Bruce Willis had a love child (don't ask me how), he'd be Mr. Smith (Owen), the carrot-munching hero of the gleefully clever Shoot 'Em Up. A hyper-parody of action movies, Shoot takes the genre's clichés and then, with a very broad wink, pumps them up to absurd altitudes. Case in point: After fatally thrusting a carrot—yep, a carrot—through a bad guy's brain, Smith lectures, "Eat your vegetables."
Written and directed by Michael Davis, Shoot is intentionally far-fetched to the point of ridiculousness. It begins with Smith delivering a pregnant stranger's newborn while trading gunfire and then, when the mother is fatally shot, fleeing with the kid to save it from the pursuing shooters. Who's after the baby and why? That's for a resourceful Smith, who soon recruits a prostitute (Bellucci) for childcare help, to figure out in between firing back at persistent would-be assassins. Owen, who also saved a baby in 2006's far more impactive Children of Men, here is hard-boiled perfection, tossing off bad guys and one-liners with equal insouciance.
Diane Lane, Anton Yelchin, Chris Evans, Donald Sutherland | R |
Years ago, humorist Fran Lebowitz theorized that the rich are actually exceedingly happy but encourage the myth that money doesn't bring contentment so that the masses won't hate them. Her hypothesis came to mind while viewing Fierce People, an overwrought coming-of-age tale about a working-class adolescent (Yelchin) and his mom (Lane) who, while living one summer in a guest cottage on a baronial estate, learn sorrowfully that the wealthy stick up only for their own and are not to be trusted. Bad, bad rich people! The reasons to go? Engaging performances by Lane and Sutherland (who plays a wealthy geezer) and sensitive ones by teen actors Yelchin and Kristen Stewart.