Now in Cinemas: Reviews for March 6, 2008

Reviews: 3:10 to Yuma and Jumper

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky

An exciting throwback to the Westerns of old, James Mangold´s 3:10 to Yuma underscores its compelling tale of bringing an outlaw to justice with a psychological battle of wits and morals between two men who have more in common than either realizes. Film pays homage to the thinking-man´s morality tale Westerns of the 1950´s, classics like High Noon, The Gunfighter, and, of course, Delmer Daves´ original 3:10 to Yuma, which was based on a short story by Elmore Leonard. Yet while this remake follows the original closely, by the end something has been lost in translation; what should have been an emotionally stirring conclusion instead feels illogical, with character motivation less than fully fleshed out.

3:10 to Yuma
Directed by James Mangold. Starring Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Logan Lerman, Dallas Roberts, Alan Tudyk, Vinessa Shaw, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Johnny Whitworth, Luke Wilson. Written by Halsted Welles and Michael Brandt & Derek Haas, from the short story by Elmore Leonard.
IMDb link

Rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale) and his family face eviction from their property by the local landowner who has just had men burn down his barn. While in town to confront the landowner, opportunity presents itself: with help from Evans, dangerous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is captured. For the fee of $200 – enough to clear his debts – Evans offers his services in transporting Wade to the town of Contention, where he´ll catch the titular prison train in two days. The journey will be anything but easy, however, with the dangerous prisoner and his gang – led by frothing-at-the-mouth psycho Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) on their trail. Bale and Crowe give equally strong performances, and their muted but intense relationship serves as the heart of the film. Spirited, memorable turns in side roles aid the film greatly; Peter Fonda´s grizzled mercenary Byron McElroy and Ben Foster´s mad-dog villain Charlie Prince both steal the show whenever they´re on screen; also effective are Dallas Roberts and Alan Tudyk as a railroad man and doctor, respectively, who join the men escorting Evans to Contention. But Mangold seems to have caught himself in between telling a rousing action tale and more subdued psychological one; the big shootout at the end and the ultimate morale of the film work well enough on their own terms, but don´t come together as effectively as one would hope. Rousing score by Marco Beltrami often recalls the classic genre work by Ennio Morricone. Taut editing keeps things compelling, but the film is missing the real-time ticking clock of the original; a great line of irony (“where´s the train?”) is unfortunately lost here.

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Directed by Doug Liman. Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Jamie Bell, Tom Hulce, Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker, AnnaSophia Robb, Max Thieriot, Jesse James, Kristen Stewart. Written by David S. Goyer and Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg, from the novel by Steven Gould.
IMDb link

An unmitigated disaster, Doug Liman´s Jumper takes a potentially intriguing premise and goes absolutely nowhere with it; what we´re left with is essentially an 80-minute trailer, the cinematic equivalent of one of the postcards from an exotic locale that feature heavily in the film. During a fifteen minute prologue – which turns out to be the best thing about the film – a young David Rice (Max Theriot) nearly dies when he falls through an ice-covered lake; he´s able to escape, however, when he discovers he can somehow teleport to another location. Years later, David (now played by Hayden Christensen) is directly teleporting into bank vaults and living the good life in New York and London apartments; the material is ripe for superhero satire – David is using his powers for personal gain instead fighting evil, and hey, wouldn´t we all – but the script plays everything disarmingly straight. There is, of course, the girl that he can´t reveal his true nature to (Rachel Blison), another ‘jumper´ that shows David the ropes (Jamie Bell), and a villain (Samuel L. Jackson) who tracks and kills ‘jumpers´ for reasons that are less than fully explained.

Usually in these movies, there’s some kind of plot – a villainous plan to, I dunno, take over the world – and maybe a theme – the hero learns he must use his powers for the good of mankind – but not here. Jumper is all characters; and not one of them do we care about. Christensen is capable of delivering a fine performance (see: Shattered Glass) but he´s been fatally miscast in iconic roles (Anakin Skywalker and Bob Dylan, to name a pair) and suffers the same fate here; simply put, he´s terrible in a role that offers him no room to breathe. Not that anyone else in the cast fares better; Jackson, in particular, has never been so bland, despite some nifty bleached-white hair. Effects are fine, and a wide range of locations keeps things (barely) interesting. Liman, once seen as a talented, up-and-coming indie director after Swingers and Go, has been getting progressively worse with each of his big-budget Hollywood outings. Jumper is his nadir.


Also opening: the Czech dramady O rodičích a dětech (showtimes), from director Vladimír Michálek and starring David Novotný, Josef Somr, Ľubo Kostelný, Zuzana Stivínová, Lenka Vlasáková, Jiří Lábus. Screening in Czech

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