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3:10 to Yuma

Richard Foreman / Lionsgate

Review in a Hurry:  This dour western has admirable performances by actors who are clearly enjoying themselves, but 3:10 to Yuma takes too long to decide what kind of movie it's going to be.

The Bigger Picture:  In James Mangold's remake, about a posse trying to get a captured outlaw leader (Russell Crowe) to a prison train before the outlaw's gang catches up, there's about a third of a great movie, only half of a decent gunfight and—this last one's the killer—almost no joy whatsoever.

At least for the audience.

Crowe's having the time of his life as Ben Wade, the sly bandit with an artist's eye and the heart of a rattlesnake. And Ben Foster turns in a dynamite, deeply physical performance as Wade's psychotic sidekick. The problem is that Christian Bale, as the weary, sad-sack rancher who volunteers to bring Wade to justice, plays his part so well he sucks the fun out of every room he's in.

In a film much concerned with irony, it's appropriate that a worse actor would probably have made for a better movie. Or at least a more enjoyable one.

A less enervating lead might have compensated for Mangold's modernized vision of a western, cut so thoroughly to the bone that there's no room for anticipation. It's all shocks and no real thrills. The violence comes in short, brutal bursts, and the story lurches along the tracks mostly because it has to. It's true that this train does get where it's going; it's just not much of a ride.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  If you like admirable movies more than enjoyable ones, this might do it for you. And Foster's bug-eyed, sun-blasted turn as the maniacal Charlie Prince is worth the price of admission if you're studying second-banana villains.