Even without prior knowledge of the original (which I have still not seen as of this writing) the obvious outcome of James Mangold's remake of 3:10 to Yuma is nowhere near a surprise. In fact the third act metamorphosis of Russel Crowe's bad-to-the-bone Ben Wade comes about this close to coming off as complete and utter horse hockey, yet it is this very moral ambiguity of an ending that plays perfectly, however ridiculous, with the psychological crux of what Mangold (and author Elmore Leonard and original director Delmore Daves before him and many a western revisionist in-between) is trying to say about the genre-specific battle between right and wrong, good and bad.
Full of gutsy bravura performances by Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster and a grizzled nearly unrecognizable Peter Fonda, 3:10 to Yuma is a latent spark in the history of the revisionist western that not only leaves plenty of room for its stars to work their acting chops but also heralds the possibility of a new auteur on the horizon. Mangold, after early uninspired chick flick flotsam such as Girl, Interrupted and Kate & Leopold (following the surprisingly taut Sylvester Stallone drama Cop Land) has managed with the one two punch of Walk the Line, a better than expected biopic, and now Yuma, to prove that perhaps he isn't just your typical studio gun-for-hire after all. Dark and sobering films both (as was Cop Land), Mangold unfolds an artistic stamp (or is that stomp?) that is not entirely unlike that of Peckinpah or Rafelson back in their heyday. Of course this is merely the well-crafted appetizer in what may yet prove an exciting and delicious meal. [10/21/07]