It’s good to have the “Western” back with us. And with two actors at the top of their game Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, a New Zealander and a Welshman to boot.
The story, based on a Elmore Leonard short story, has a small-time rancher (Bale) volunteering to deliver legendary outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe), who's been captured and is awaiting a train to go to court in Yuma. As much as anything, this is a battle of wills in which the outlaw tries to psych out the rancher.What director Mangold (Walk the Line) has done is expand the original (with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin) to make it more believable. A good portion of the action takes place in New Mexico rather than just in towns which is pretty much where the original took place.
"3:10 to Yuma" stays honest with the classic western while giving it a 21st century sensibility. If we look back at some of John Ford's westerns, "Stagecoach" for example, the bad guys are really bad--and a bit stupid--while John Wayne's Ringo Kid is naively noble. There's none of that here. Both Bale and Crowe's characters are more nuanced, and while Crowe's Ben Wade encourages sadistic sidekicks like Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) who relishes killing people, he also likes to sketch and quote the Bible. Dan Evans, the rancher and wounded civil war veteran, is uptight and has self-esteem issues; his relations with his wife and two sons are precarious at best.
"3:10 to Yuma" follows the trail of some terrific good guy/bad guy westerns. I can think of the Randolph Scott pictures directed by Budd Boetticher who teamed Scott with some of the genre's best bad guys: Lee Marvin (Seven Men from Now), Richard Boone (The Tall T), Claude Akins (Comanche Station). Russell Crowe and Christian Bale have that kind of chemistry which blurs the line between good and bad and makes this a satisfying movie.