With such a massive number of westerns out there, it takes something special to stand out. 3:10 to Yuma, a remake of a 1957 film, brings strong casting and complex characters to ride it out. Sadly, there’s a staggering number of illogical moments and over-the-top action that means none of this can be taken seriously (despite the all-around superb performances).
Russell Crowe plays the typical Old West outlaw Ben Wade, killing for money and riding into town unannounced. His character may initially be an overwhelming cliché, but that’s quickly extinguished as he’s taken into custody. Christian Bale is monotone as a rancher who agrees to help escort Wade to help himself out of a financial hole. The interplay between Bale and Crowe is phenomenal, and the critical piece that rises this out of the usual Western rut.
The opening 10 minutes or so of Yuma are highly confusing. Loads of characters, unexplained (although enjoyable) action, and the lack of any coherent plot are initially a turn-off. As things settle down, so does the pacing. The script allows the characters to develop naturally, and it’s not long before the audience looks at Crowe with disdain. He’s a master manipulator with an evil smirk that’s utterly appalling.
By the end however, even with all of Crowe’s deplorable acts, you begin rooting for him. Without divulging spoilers, his character makes an odd but subtle shift throughout the movie, yet never takes on a hero’s role. The finale is intense and loaded with twists to deliver a fine send-off to an initially somewhat spotty (and occasionally dull) script.
Lapses in the script’s pacing are nothing compared to the lapses in logic. As Wade is being escorted, he continually picks off more of the authorities single-handedly, and yet not only do they not figure out safer means of transport, they let him live. It’s impossible to buy that after emotional send-offs for their friends they wouldn’t just shoot him dead the first chance they get. A tension-filled stare-down outside a hotel is also unnecessary, with a clear shot at the bad guys that’s never taken long before the situation gets out of control.
The action is also pure Hollywood. The opening carriage shoot-out is fun, but the film eventually takes its action into something out of Rambo, in which no one can hit anything, including key characters who sit wide out in the open. A dead-on rifle shot who had no problem picking off fast moving targets earlier can’t hit anything for fear of killing off the leads too early during the frantic finish. A death scene is also well below any common sense, stopping in the midst of one of the biggest gun fights the character has ever seen.
3:10 to Yuma is purely a character study, and on that level, it works. Performances delivered here are special, and worth a look. You simply need to turn off your brain to get past some of the idiotic missteps that characters make.
While flesh tones do run slightly orange, that’s the only real issue with this outstanding Blu-ray effort. Contrast leads to perfectly calibrated whites and deep, rich blacks. The transfer is razor sharp, leading to phenomenal levels of detail down to individual hairs or missed stitches on the period piece costumes. This is a great example of the technology at its finest.
Lionsgate delivers one of the more astounding home audio mixes you’ll ever hear. The 7.1 uncompressed mix is loaded. Every action sequence uses every available speaker. Gunfire pings off the surroundings, using the additional two channels effectively. The separation is that good.
Bass is the type your neighbors complain about, room-shaking whenever the appropriate weapon is fired. Oh, and when the train finally comes down the tracks, it’s like the railroad is in the room with you. If there’s any complaint, it’s that low-end dialogue can be difficult to hear with the volume at an appropriate level for the action.
Director James Mangold provides a commentary for the film, discussing his reasons for doing a remake amongst the usual production notes. Eight featurettes are included, varying wildly in running times. Four of them are exclusive to Blu-ray, including an interview with the author who wrote the original story, and two historical featurettes about the time period itself. Seven deleted scenes are also included.
Another Blu-ray exclusive is Inside Yuma. Annoyingly, this isn’t a picture-in-picture feature, but rather an extension of the menu system. As relevant content is available, the side bar offers the content for the user to select, then the movie branches off to display it. These are usually story boards or the script comparison. It’s not worth it.