What *IS* it about bad boys that we love???? Well, That's exactly the appeal of Russell Crowe in his latest offering, director Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma. Crowe plays heartless, handsome -in- black Ben Wade, perpetrator of many stage coach robberies, murders and seductions of bar maids with his smooth pick-up lines delivered using a velvet voice. He had me in his spell after the first 5 min. of film! He is no common outlaw, being familiar with the Bible and quoting from it often and making frequent quick sketches of the world around him.
Glenn Ford, from the original filmed in 1957, playing the same part, was NEVER as cool and smart as Crowe's Ben Wade.
Now, I'm probably one of the few people on earth that hasn't seen Christian Bale in a film before. His role as down-on-his-luck rancher, family man Dan is the opposite of Wade's. This poor excuse for a role model to his sons, is about as depressing a character as one can get. He sucks the life out of every space he occupies, oozing darkness and defeat. His older son, William, thinks he is a wimp...and he's right on. His wife looks down upon him as a failure. A serious drought as caused his land to dry up, thus making it hard to make any money to make his loan payments to the cold-hearted lien holders. They send out thugs to burn his barn as a warning early on in the film, that his house will be next if he doesn't come up with the next installment.
The two of them meet as Dan accepts in desparation the task of accompanying Wade to Yuma, Arizona in order to put him on a prison bound train, thus clearing the territory of a dangerous outlaw. His pay for this very risky job is $200. Risky as there are Wade's gang of vicious animals hot on their heels, pissed off Indians along the way, and revenge-seeking railroad men, quite happy to torture Wade when he rides into their camp for all his murdering mischief making with their trains and stage coaches carrying payday money for the railroad crews.
It's worth mentioning a supporting character here, one of Wade's top animals, Charlie Prince, played chillingly amoral by Ben Foster. His loyalty and devotion to Wade is almost sexual, but I really don't think he was gay, just one of those extreme brown nosers, intent on keeping Wade happy, thus insuring Wade didn't get ticked off at him and shoot him dead for some indiscretion. That said, his portrayal with his piercing eyes and focus on Wade did make for a great performance.
After a dash through the badlands towards Yuma over a 2 day ride, Wade and Dan end up in a hotel room in Yuma, waiting for the train to arrive. The dialog exchanges in that room are soft and revealing of both men's characters, as different in backgrounds as could be, yet a weird bond has formed between them. Not exactly friendship, but most likely some level of respect. It turns out that Wade has killed those that he felt deserved it, not just for the love of killing. He steals from the railroads mainly because they used slave Chinese labor. Dan, on the other hand, is a casper mild toast due to his stint in the Civil War Union Army, having had his leg shot off, hence his wooden stump, making him less of a man in that unforgiving culture of the West. But, Dan is determined to change all that by seeing this task through of making sure Wade gets on that train. If he does not accomplish this, he fails in finally being the man his family is needing/wanting. Wade probably envies Dan for having this family in the first place. Down deep inside he feels some admiration for this man.
It isn't a perfect film, with plenty of holes in the plot that makes no sense. But, if you can let yourself become immersed in the characters and not look too hard for reality of situations, then these storyline issues won't bother you. There is a twist ending, that some find objectionable and full of complete character reversal on Wade's part. After reflection, it isn't that bothersome to me at all. I can't really discuss it here in detail, as some that read this review might not have seen the film yet...and I don't want to spoil it.
This could be Oscar material for several of the actors, and other areas of recognition for the filmmakers.
One other interesting note...there is a bit of dialog delivered by Wade where he talks about his visits to Dodge City, KS! lol Of course, this is where I live now...so I found this humorous, and there were quite a few giggles and laughs in the audience during this scene from fellow residents of Dodge.
Long live the Western.