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“3:10 TO YUMA”

In remaking the 1957 classic Western starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford, director James Mangold (Walk The Line) thankfully doesn’t bastardize the solid story or the sanctity of the original. Instead he returns to the source material (an Elmore Leonard short story) and creates this battle of wills between a struggling rancher and the notorious leader of a band of outlaws with respect to the genre and a kick in the pants for a new generation of viewers.

Though I would hardly call it the best Western since Unforgiven (as a Houston Chronicle blurb boasts on the DVD cover), teaming Russell Crowe as the fast drawing, quick quipped Ben Wade (the gang leader) and Christian Bale as the subtle Dan Evans (the rancher) was a wise choice. Both give superb performances and look the part.

In the film, progress has come to Evan’s farm as the railroad company uses harsh tactics to get him and his family off the land by burning down his barn and later flat out telling him that the train tracks are going through his land whether he likes it or not. But at the same time Evans and his two boys stumble across Wade and his posse robbing a payroll coach for the 22nd time. Wade spares the three, only taking their horses, but Wade is soon captured and again Evans is in the middle of everything and volunteers his services to take Evans to Contention where he’ll be put on the 3:10 train to Yuma prison, in return his land is spared. But Wade’s gang, headed by the psycho second in command, Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), are determined to get their boss back.

Outside of beefing up the violence and language (that would even make Al Swearengen blush), Mangold stays true to the look and themes of classic Westerns like Johnny Guitar and High Noon. While a small role by Peter Fonda as the grizzled bounty-hunter hired to protect the payroll coach is a joy to watch.

Nothing fancy in the added features. Commentary by Mangold and a few behind-the-scenes docs.

Lionsgate releases the DVD today for $29.95.

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