Category Archives: Western

True Grit (2010)

Punishment comes one way or another.

The Coen Brothers are the bally-est directors that I have seen. Remaking the 1969 movie that won John Wayne the Best Actor Oscar is risky. Remind you that I haven’t seen the original one. That would be a good thing that I did not come into the #191 Movie of All-Time, True Grit with any perceived notions.

 The starts with 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Haliee Steinfeld) traveling from Arkansas to claim the body of her father who was killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) after a drunken bar brawl. She tries to the local authorities to help find Chaney, but they have their thumbs up their butts, because Chaney escaped in Indian Territory.

Mattie hears the tale of the ruthless bounty hunter by the name of Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) who usually kills his bounty rather than bring them alive. She wants somebody to capture Chaney and bring him to justice. Mattie is surprised when she finds a lazy, filthy drunk. He tries to rebuke her hiring him to find Chaney.

A Texas sheriff named LaBeouf (Matt Damon) is also traveling to find Chaney, because he killed a Texas senator. LaBeouf and Rooster join forces to go into the Indian Territory to find Chaney with or without the headstrong Mattie tagging along.

 The movie overall was an enjoyable ride. It’s not the best movie that I have seen this year. Jeff Bridges as Rooster is hilarious. Hailee is fantastic in the film. It was surprised to see Barry Pepper in the movie.

The biggest disappoint that I had with the movie was Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney. He was great with his earlier collaboration with the Coens, No Country for Old Men. Here, he is supposed to play a simpleton and it feels like he was phoning it in.

Judgment: There was nothing else with the flick that raised it as a western. The acting and action saved it.

Rating: ****

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Unforgiven (1992)

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I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed everything that walks or crawls at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you done to Ned.

— William Munny

I can cross Unforgiven from my list of great movies that I have never seen. Touted as Clint Eastwood’s final western the movie went on to win a four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director for Eastwood and Best Supporting Actor for Gene Hackman. As many of you know that I am not a big fan of westerns, but this one is different. The #110 movie of All Time on IMDb, this movie transcends the traditional template of a western.

The crux of the movie is about a dispute in Wyoming between a cowboy Quick Mike (David Mucci) cutting the face of a prostitute, Delilah (Anna Levine) who questioned the size of his manhood when they were trying to have sex. His partner Davey Bunting (Rob Campbell) comes into the room and takes part in the brutal slashing.

Little Bill (Gene Hackman), the sheriff of Big Whiskey wants to give the boys a couple of lashings with a whip, but the girls wanted them to receive a worse punishment. Little Bill lets the boys go by just taking half of their horses as their punishment.

Seeking justice, the lead madame, Strawberry Alice (Frances Fisher) and the rest of the girls gather all of their money together– a thousand dollars– as reward for any gunslinger that would gun down.

The news travel throughout the land when The Schofield Kid (Jaimz Woolvett) seeks out retired gunslinger from Kansas, William Munny (Eastwood) to join him in killing the cowboys. He changed his ways from the drink, the cussing and the killing. He hasn’t picked up a gun in over a decade and doesn’t know if he could get back in the saddle.

Eventually, William takes him up on his offer. Along the way, William recruits his friend and another former gunslinger, Ned Logan (Morgan Freeman). Going on the way to Big Whiskey, the trio realizes some truths about themselves.

Meanwhile in Big Whiskey, a known marksman, English Bob (Richard Harris), known for killing Chinamen moseys onto the town with his biographer W.W. Beauchamp (Saul Rubinek). He is met with some resistance by Little Bill and the lawmen.

There is an ordinance says that all outlaws must surrender their weapons. Little Bill doesn’t want to be cut down by an assassin’s bullet in his town. He becomes more paranoid that another marksman is going to turn his town into a shooting gallery.

This quiet film might not sit well with rough and tough, shoot ‘em up kind of viewer. I thought this was subdued brilliance. The shadows filled the scenes in dark bars or dimly lit rooms like a film noir. You get the sense of authenticity when see this film.

The themes of regret and redemption interwoven throughout the movie with William going back to life of being a criminal after her has made a promise to his dead wife or the way that The Schofield Kid reacted towards the end of the movie about killing a man.

Judgment: A fascinating portrait of gunslingers way past their prime in the Old West.

Rating: *****

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

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I’ve always liked you Byron, but you never know when to shut up. Even bad men love their mommas.

— Ben Wade

Trying to acclimate myself to the western genre, I watched the 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma. The movie has an all-star cast with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, but the movie was mind-numbing. It was like a dead fish thrashing around.

Ben Wade (Crowe) is a famous outlaw in the Old West that is captured by rebel brigade that includes a rancher, Dan Evans (Bale). He is being transported on a train to Yuma so he could be executed by hanging. His partner, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) wants to stop the transport.

Nothing happens in the movie. The movie was so boring that I had to turn it off. It is the same premise with the lead man wronged by the government to take their land and they go on a journey to get money for their money. Do something different, please.

It tried to be a modern western, but it rang false. I did not believe that these people lived in the 1880s.

Judgment: Watch the original movie instead of this drivel.

Rating: *1/2

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)

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Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. We’re gonna have to earn it.

— Man With No Name

I have been trying to dive into more classic movies. Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly comes in at number 4 of the Top 250 of all time on IMDB. This is a movie out of MANY that I was embarrassed to have not seen. I am not partial to westerns per say, but I was willing to give it a try. I really liked it.

This is the last film of “The Man With No Name” trilogy. I forgot that it was a trilogy. I need to see A Fistful of Dollars and For Some Dollars More. This movie holds up well on it’s own, which is very rare.

Being introduced to Sergio Leone, I have noticed his unique filming style with multiple close-up shots on the actors, the indelible score by Ennio Morricone and the ten minute wordless beginning. Brillant.

In this final installment, The Man with No Name aka “The Good” (Clint Eastwood) and his outlaw friend, Tuco aka “The Ugly” (Eli Wallach) are searching through the American southwest during the Civil War to find a grave that is said to contain $200,ooo in gold.

After they back stab each other along the way to find the money, their plans are thwarted by a heartless gun slinging Union soldier, Sentenza aka “The Bad” (Lee Van Clef).

Not unlike every other western, the ending fairly predictable, but I enjoyed the ride there. I did have some problems with some of the pacing. The movie was almost three hours long. I was confused that the people talking were dubbed. I found out that most of the characters spoke in Italian or Spanish. I can let that slide.

Overall, the film was a solid film that needs to be viewed.

Judgment: Being this is my first Sergio Leone movie, I would love to see the rest of his films. I would suggest you will, too.

Rating: ****1/2

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