::Literate Blather::
Monday, January 07, 2008
Fantastically Bad Cinema: "3:10 to Yuma"

(Warning: spoilers ahead)

“3:10 to Yuma” is an insufferably terrible film. Its sins are numerous, but the most glaring is characters that disregard logic and commonsense because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a plot. In fact, if any the characters possessed a lick of sense “3:10 to Yuma” would be 10 minutes long.

Remarkably, movie critics chose to ignore this gaping chasm of a problem and turned “3:10 to Yuma” into a critical darling when it was released last year. Audiences, however, aren’t always so gullible and the film collected a paltry $50 million – barely breaking even. Audiences, it turns out, can sometimes be wiser than the critics.

Bruce Westbrook, movie critic for the Houston Chronicle, actually called “3:10 to Yuma” the best western since “Unforgiven.” Mr. Westbrook should be banned from reviewing movies for a year and be forced to watch all of the Police Academy movies in a row. Don’t be duped by the enormous marketing budget now touting the release of the DVD. “3:10 to Yuma” is bad movie making; achingly bad.

However, like all of our fantastically bad cinema selections, “3:10 to Yuma” is so god awful that there’s some delight to be had – especially watching Russell Crowe turn in his most overwrought, overacted performance yet as Ben Wade, a notorious outlaw with an intellectual heart of gold. Wade likes to make pencil sketches of birds and people before he goes off robbing and killing. The cad!

The plot is straight forward, but its execution is preposterous. Meet struggling rancher Dan Evans, played with seething intensity by Christian Bale (Bale needs to do a light romantic comedy). Evans is on the verge of bankruptcy and losing the faith of his wife and two sons.

So when Wade is captured after robbing a train company’s payroll coach (and murdering at least four men), Evans volunteers to be part of the posse that will escort Wade to the Yuma prison train. The movie plods along up until this point (most viewers will be hugely disappointed in the paint-by-numbers action scene that is the stagecoach robbery), but there’s hope for something more.

Be prepared for your hopes to be dashed.

The posse falls asleep around a campfire and Wade – using a fork pilfered from Evan’s ranch – proceeds to hack one of the posse members to death with it. This is the first instance where you slap and your head in disbelief. Why didn’t the posse tie Wade up? Isn’t he a ruthless mass murderer? If they couldn’t manage that no-brainer shouldn’t one of them have stayed up to guard him?

Another member of the posse – a bounty hunter – beats Wade senseless and – get this – the other posse members stop him. “That’s enough!” Huh? Didn’t Wade just stab one of them to death while they slept? Aren’t they escorting Wade to Yuma to be hanged? Why don’t they just shoot the bastard in the head and go home?

Not this posse. They continue on their merry way to Yuma – with Wade only wearing handcuffs (they tell him to shut-up so many times you wonder if they’ve ever heard of a gag). Wade then jumps the bounty hunter and throws him off a cliff to his death.

The rest of the posse manages to get the drop on Wade before he escapes – but do they kill him? Nope. Not even after the bastard has murdered two of them in cold blood. And neither do they tie and gag him. So, of course, Wade escapes again.

This time Wade is captured by railroad thugs guarding the Chinese workers as they build the transcontinental railway. One of the thugs recognizes Wade because Wade killed his brother. So the thugs torture Wade with the intention of killing him.

Guess what? Risking their lives, the posse, lead by Evans, rescues Wade. They shoot it out with the railroad thugs and another one of the posse is shot and killed. Can you believe this? This is the dumbest goddamn posse in the world. By this point you’re rolling your eyes so much that you have a headache.

The posse finally gets Wade to Contention – the town with the train to Yuma. There are only three posse members left, a railroad representative, Evans, and Evan’s son. They need to hide Wade somewhere until the train comes. What better place than the local hotel and saloon? Who would look there? And even better – its half a mile away from the station.

The railway man hires the local marshal and his men to help guard Wade, but when Wade’s gang of cutthroats ride into town to rescue him – well those cowardly lawmen flee (only to be shot down unarmed by Wade’s gang).

The railway man tells Evans its time to it give up and offers to pay him the money he needs save his ranch and get out of debt. He tells Evans that it’s over that they are outnumbered and outgunned. So does Evans quit to save his life and son’s and live to bail out his family?

Nah! Why give up after you’ve gotten seven men killed so far? Evans decides he’ll take Wade to the train station alone and get him on that blasted train if it is the last thing he does (although he probably was kicking himself for not hiding out at the train station in the first place).

Evans and Wade – clock ticking toward 3:10 p.m. – share a moment in the hotel room. Here’s the brilliant analysis of that scene by movie critic Roger Ebert: “Crowe and Bale play this dialogue so precisely that it never reveals itself for what it really is, a testing of mutual insight. One trial of a great actor is the ability to let dialog do its work invisibly…” Yeah, I’m a huge fan of invisible dialog.

So what happens? Inexplicably, Wade decides to help Evans deliver him to the train station. They’ll do it together (against Wade’s loyal gang of cutthroats)! Why Wade just doesn’t order his men not to shoot at them and then stroll down to the station is, well, stupid.

So they dodge, duck, run, and fight against Wade’s gang all the way to the train station. And if you were expecting action? Forget it. This is one of the worst gunfights in cinema history – with thousands of bullets flying and only bad guys being shot (because everyone knows they can’t aim).

Evans ends up dead – shot by Wade’s loyal lieutenant. He is, after all, trying to rescue his boss. Psycho killer Wade, distraught that his men have actually had the audacity to succeed in freeing him, guns them down in revenge for Evans’ murder.

Unbelievable? Completely.

Do yourself a favor and only rent “3:10 to Yuma” if you’re ready poke it with a stick. Otherwise rent “Unforgiven.” That’s a real western.

Read more "Fantastically Bad Cinema" reviews:

Jewel of the Nile

Music & Lyrics

Labels: , ,

Stumble Upon Toolbar StumbleUpon | Digg! Digg | del.icio.us | Reddit | Technorati Technorati | E-mail a Link E-mail
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
Anonymous Anonymous said...
Oh dear.
If you are going to make long-winded criticisms of a movie then it helps if you do actually understand it. Otherwise, as you prove here, when you spout off about the movie's short-comings you only draw attntion to your own.

Ben Wade didn't kill Charlie Prince in revenge for the killing of Dan Evans.
Ben Wade is a bad man. There is no proof offered of his redemption. The people who pan the ending for the redemption being unbelievable and illogical are failing into a trap of seeing what they are pre-programmed to see.
Ben Wade kills Prince because 1) He disobeyed orders. (Just as he killed on of his men in the opening scene. The clue was there.) And 2) this means he was dangerous and his gang were more a liability than an asset.
Pragmatism, not emotion, motivated his actions in wiping them out.

The train to Yuma was Wade's ticket, not to prison but to freedom. Freedom to start again, not reformed of course, but adapted to new circumstances. He is the pragmatist who uses the changing world to get what he wants. Evans on the other hand, hide-bound by his inflexible moral standpoint, falls victim to it first by losing his land to the railroad and then,indirectly, his life.
Which neatly turns on its head the classic and romanticized western tradition of the railroad and 'civilization' ending the rule of outlaws and benefiting the law-abiding.

I would also take issue with your assessment of Crowe's acting in this. I thought it was finely nuanced in Western Bad Guy terms.

Blogger GFS3 said...
You make some good points (with lousy spelling), but ultimately I think you're telegraphing what you want the ending to mean more than what's actually there in content.

I don't contend that Wade reforms (after all he whistles for his horse at the end and its clear he's going to escape). The point is, as you say, Wade is a bad man. So there's no point for him to help Evans get him to the train. Because Wade doesn't need the train to Yuma for his freedom.

But I do agree with your excellent assessment of Evans' character. However, I don't believe a man of his strict morality would purposely endanger his son and family when he no longer had to.

But thanks for your comments. I appreciate them.

Blogger Unknown said...
Wade does feel something for Dan. Hence why Dans son says "Cause you're not all bad" Why else would Wade yell "No!" just as Charlie shoots Dan. Also when Dan is being choked by Wade and Dan tells him how he's never been a hero and how he lost his leg by friendly fire in DC and how had to tell his kids Wade agrees to go to the station after that emotional moment. I think Wade kills Charlie and the gang for breaking the rules and then justifies it with the killing of a friend. Yes Ben sees Dan as a friend he says it indirectly in the hotel room.

Dan uses morales and Wade uses common sense, but is swayed by the morales until he is no long surrounded by them after Dans death and the gun point by Dans son.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Who ever wrote this critic of "3:10 to Yuma" should meet the same fate as Charlie.


The RT Community loved "3:10 to Yuma"

Stop being a douche because you couldn't get the movie.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The first one is horribly written and paced. Unwatchable.

Blogger Unknown said...
Thank you for writing this. All other replies are wrong, and your critique is accurate. A completely retarded film, from beginning to end. Illogical.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Based on all of the positive reviews for this piece of garbage, I thought I'd lost my mind? Even if someone wishes to contend that Wade and Dan have fallen in love by the end of the movie, they're still risking the kid's life for no reason. As for the nonsense that Wade wishes to go back to jail - then why did he whistle for his horse at the end? Or is there a horsie jail right next door to the jail for idiot hipster cowboys in Yuma?

Blogger Jim Day said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Jim Day said...
This article said everything I experienced watching this.. blah blah blah creating a great meaningful deep story.
The truth of the matter is that they should have busted out Wade's teeth, broke his fingers, shot his kneecaps out, and made him lick dirt the first time he murdered someone on the trail.
The whole, allowing him to remain uncrippled and able to mock and kill them, was just plain stupid.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I agree. It was not a smart film.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
The Template is generated via PsycHo and is Licensed.