3:10 to Yuma (2007)

James Mangold has been one of Hollywood's quiet achievers for a decade now; Copland, Girl, Interrupted, Identity, and Walk The Line fulfilled their disparate, generic objectives with sinuous, well-crafted storytelling, and all display Mangold's superlative skill with actors. 3:10 is far from being a great film, or even a very good one, but it entertains, and Mangold's walloping action scenes and his handling of an electric cast cannot be faulted. Adapted from Elmore Leonard's story and the previous film version of it by Delmer Daves, the script has been awkwardly padded out with some extra plot contrivances that stretch credibility, and the running time, unnecessarily. It feels like the first major Hollywood Western since Peckinpah died not to be weighed down by its own self-importance as a Great American Genre, and settles for being a robust, pulpy, if moderately intelligent, shoot-em-up. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, both of whom have built their reputations on giving more to mediocre projects than they deserve, do so again here; the interplay between Bale's ferocious sternness and Crowe's fleshy, cheeky killer is intriguing, certainly extending Leonard's fascination for likable bad guys and a general moral ambiguity in its version of the American West - what price Crowe's honest villainy, when this world is full of killers, sadists, arsonists, religious maniacs, and ruthless power-hungry operators? Peter Fonda is turning into his father.

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