Tag: russell crow

MOVIE REVIEW | 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

In 2005, director James Mangold made Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic.  Before that he’d had a little success with Cop Land (a movie that is largely and unfairly forgotten now), plus pretty decent critical success and award recognition with Girl Interrupted.  But Walk the Line was the one that really made me take notice and learn his name so I could keep an eye on what he did next.  Then, what he did next seemed to be a bit of a flop and he slid off my radar of people to keep an eye on.  But with the death of Elmore Leonard, author of the source material, the title 3:10 to Yuma kept popping up.  So I finally got around to James Mangold’s supposedly disappointing follow up to Walk to Line.

Christian Bale is Dan Evans, a struggling rancher in in 1884 Arizona.  He’s being run off his land by a rival rancher who controls the water supply.  Russell Crowe is Ben Wade, a notorious outlaw who’s finally captured after robbing one stage coach too many.  In order to make desperately needed money, Evans signs on to escort Wade to Yuma, where he’ll be put on a train to face trial.

Along the way, the lawmen are more and more revealed to be the not so good guys.  And because Russell Crowe is the kind of actor who’s ego keeps him from ever playing an actual baddie, 3:10 to Yuma not only has to give him a redemption arc, it also has to give us, the audience, other legit villains we can all hate.  Such as the rancher running Bale off his land, who has the thankless job of delivering the line, “Sometimes a man has to be big enough to see how small he is”.  It’s the verbal equivalent of twirling a moustache.

But the dead horse flogging obviousness doesn’t stop there.  Limping on a Civil War injury, Evans is constantly questioned by his eldest son who thinks he’s a coward, and even though his wife (Gretchen Mol) is always completely supportive, we know Evans is trying to prove his manhood to her, his son and most importantly, to himself.  And just in case that still isn‘t obvious, Bale is given clunky dialogue to really hammer it home.  Clunky dialogue like “I’ve been standing on one leg for three goddam years, waiting for God to do me a favour”.

It’s easy to crap on Russell Crowe as a bit of a dick.  He constantly gives us all so much ammunition in his real life.  But when I see him in a movie, I’m, always reminded that he is a good, naturally charismatic actor.  He has a certain charm and cheeky glint in his eye that makes him really watchable.  Combine that with the intensity of Christian Bale, and you’ve got a more than serviceable modern Western.  It’s also pretty great to see an Aussie and a Pom in the lead roles of the most American of genres, and both nail it.

It does nothing to advance or add anything to the genre, and there are dozens better.  And sure, compared to Walk the Line, it’s kind of disappointing, but it’s a totally fine way to spend a couple of hours.  3:10 to Yuma just had the misfortune of coming so soon after its director’s break through and still current high water mark.

3:10 to Yuma
Directed By – James Mangold
Written By – Halsted Wells, Michael Bandt

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AUSSIE WEEK*** The Sum of Us (1994)

Sum of US
When a movie is about a hot button issue of the day, it’s kind of a double edged sword.  If it works and plays a part in changing attitudes for the better, it also works in dating itself and making it seem more and more out of touch as time goes on.  The Sum of Us manages a rare feat.  20 years after its release, I don’t know if it was super progressive in its attitudes towards homosexuality, or if Australia as a country has barely changed in its attitudes towards homosexuality in the two decades since.  Because a lot of The Sum of Us seems surprisingly in sync with the Australia of 2014.

While it follows a single set of characters and sticks to a simple, chronological timeline, The Sum of Us is more like three episodes of a TV show, than one complete movie.  Part one follows Jeff (Russell Crowe), a plumber and footy player in his early 20s who also happens to be gay.  He lives with his father, Harry (Jack Thompson) and is in pursuit of a crush, Greg (John Polson).  Over the course of a single night, we get to see the easy, accepting dynamic between father and son.  Harry never misses an opportunity to show how accepting he is of his son’s sexuality, and it usually manifests in a joke.

When Jeff brings Greg home after their first date, Harry’s over familiarity and over insistence to show how OK he is with the whole gay thing starts to get creepy.  Not in any way because of the whole gay thing, but in a way that it would be creepy if a parent of either sex talked that openly with a child of any sexual persuasion.   It’s just weird.

Part two leaves Jeff on the sidelines and follows Harry on a whirlwind courtship with Joyce (Deborah Kennedy), a fellow person of a certain age he meets through a dating agency.  At first I wondered why a story that seemed so focused on Jeff’s sexuality for the first third would spend the next third ignoring it.  But that becomes clearly deliberate once Jeff’s existence is injected into the story of Harry and Joyce.

Part three largely leaves the love interests behind to focus almost completely on the father, son relationship.  And while technically less happens here, and there’s no big climax, the earlier sections setup some really great payoffs that make this last half hour or so the most satisfying.

The biggest downside of The Sum of Us is its obvious origins as a stage play.  The house of Jeff and Harry always looks like a set, never like a real house.  But the main problem is in the overly rehearsed, overly “Acted” performances.  You can tell every single word, inflection and stutter, every single movement, action and reaction has been rehearsed, refined and workshopped to the point of the actors sunning o auto pilot.  Jack Thompson, Russell Crowe and John Polson all do a great job…  If I was 10 rows back in a theatre watching a play.  On the screen, none of it ever seems real or in the moment.  There are times when they break the fourth wall, talking directly to the camera, where I swear they give the odd pause, as if giving a live audience a moment to laugh.

Despite that, the rest of The Sum of Us makes it more than watchable.  You can see why Crowe went on to be a massive star, but you can’t see what would make so many people now see him as a massive dick.  And Jack Thompson as the Aussiest Aussie bloke Australia has ever produced is always gonna be entertaining.  Or as his character from The Sum of Us would probably describe it, “bloody bonza, you little ripper, mate.  Now get me a flamin’ beer, cobber.  I’m as dry as dead dingo’s donger”.

The Sum of Us
Directed By – Geoff Burton, Kevin Dowling
Written By – David Stevens