BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
Doc Potter (Alan Tudyk), Dan Evans (Christian Bale), Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), Byron McElroy (Peter Fonda), and Glen Hollander (Lennie Loftin) in 3:10 to Yuma. © 2007 Richard Foreman/Lionsgate
The villain of Elmore Leonard’s fictional short story "3:10 to Yuma" is Jim Kidd, the head of a murdering band of outlaws who rob stagecoaches. As the story opens, Kidd has been caught and sentenced. But the Deputy Marshal’s job is just beginning. He has to transport this cunning outlaw to Contention, Arizona, to board the train to Yuma Prison, while looking out for Kidd’s ruthless gang, who aims to set him free.
In 1957, Delmer Daves brought 3:10 to Yuma to the silver screen. The film renames the villain as Ben Wade, played by Glenn Ford, and introduces Dan Evans, a struggling homesteader and injured Civil War vet, played by Van Heflin, who faces off with Wade in a battle of wits and survival.
Which brings us to 2007 and the remake of 3:10 to Yuma playing in theaters now. This adaptation stars Russell Crowe and Christian Bales—natives of New Zealand and Wales, respectively, but ever convincing in their Western personas. Crowe’s cool delivery wins hands-down over Ford’s as Ben Wade, the ruthless, charming, understated bad guy with a possible streak of humanity. And Bales is the perfectly faltering Evans. Crowe and Bales are two good reasons to see this action drama, as is the intricate human story that has now evolved, where a successful bad guy challenges a failing man of integrity who is desperately trying to win the confidence of his family.
James Mangold (Walk the Line) directs this modified story with supercharged action, layers of human conflict, a re-worked ending, and the Gary Cooper flavor of High Noon. The film brings some subordinate characters to the forefront, including a Pinkerton guard, played by Peter Fonda, and Dan Evans’s insubordinate son William (Logan Lerman), who resents his dad’s failures and who yearns for a nasty taste of the Wild West. The force not to be reckoned with is Charlie Prince, Wade’s psycho sidekick played by Ben Foster, who grew up in Fairfield’s community theater and now adds to his long list of Hollywood credits one of his most commanding roles to date.
What’s wrong with this picture? Just those impossible cinematic moments when it’s raining bullets and nobody’s getting hit. But never mind. Do see this film, even if you don’t like Westerns. 3:10 to Yuma is a charged story that reveals the many facets of its good guys and bad guys and pulls you through to the end. Don’t miss the train. A