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Plenty of Action, Not Enough Plot in 3:10 to Yuma

  • Christa Banister Contributing Writer
  • 2007 7 Sep
Plenty of Action, Not Enough Plot in <i>3:10 to Yuma</i>

DVD Release Date:  January 8, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  September 7, 2007
Rating:  R (for violence, language)
Genre:  Western
Run Time:  117 min.
Director:  James Mangold
Actors:  Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Chris Browning, Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, Luke Wilson, Chad Brummett, Gretchen Mol, Logan Lerman, Benjamin Petry

In our often A-D-D culture where 90 minutes is often a lot to ask of an audience, it’s surprising (and refreshing) that such an old-school movie genre—the western—is making a comeback with 3:10 to Yuma.

Of course, there are a few modern embellishments to keep up with the times, namely the witty one-liners that Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) oh-so-slyly delivers. And while those humorous moments may seem a tad distracting to those who fall into more of the purist camp, western aficionados will definitely appreciate the film’s clear delineation between the bad guys and the good guys, the dusty, dazzling Old West cinematography and plenty of shoot ‘em up action scenes with a body count as high as your typical Bruce Willis action flick.

But even under the careful eye of Walk the Line director James Mangold, the script, which is a remake of the 1957 Glenn Ford western, still lacks a focused, coherent plot. And without that, even stellar performances from Crowe and Christian Bale can’t make up the difference, emotionally or otherwise.

Basically, the story starts off with Dan Evans (Bale), a decent, honorable man who wants so much more than he’s able to provide for his family. Not only is he missing a leg from his Civil War days, but the drought-ridden piece of land that he, his wife and two young sons live on is about to be foreclosed on by a group of greedy men who want to build a railroad through it. If that wasn’t rough enough, his oldest son is beginning to lose respect for him because the family cattle-ranching venture isn’t exactly lucrative. Or even close.

Meanwhile, Wade is Evan’s polar opposite. He’s a cocky outlaw who’s used to everything going his way. In fact, when he’s not charming the local ladies, he’s running from the law. But no matter how sticky the situation gets, he’s got a loyal group of admirers who’ll protect him at a moment’s notice.

With that dynamic firmly set in place, the rest of the movie  revolves around Evan’s effort to make some cash by transporting Wade to the 3:10 train to Yuma, where Wade would go to prison for his long list of crimes.

While that simple premise could’ve worked if properly developed, there are way too many unnecessary diversions that don’t advance the plot (such as the normally affable Luke Wilson as a tobacco chewin’ torturer, ‘nuff said). Worse yet is the film’s wretched third act where our outlaw acts so out of character that it’s not only unbelievable but downright hokey. To put into perspective, it would’ve been like Billy the Kid deciding to give up life as an outlaw to be a preacher. Yeah, right.

Flaws aside, 3:10 to Yuma does have its moments, which isn’t surprising given an A-list cast. Crowe is thoroughly enjoyable to watch as a bad guy and manages to charm far more than he ever did in A Good Year, where he played the romantic lead. Bale, with his stalwart determination, is a perfect fit for the struggling father who just wants to succeed. But aside from the scenes where Wade and Evans are forced to face their respective demons, there’s simply not a strong enough storytelling anchor to leave a memorable impression for the long haul—a shame for those hoping for a proper revival of the Western.


  • Drugs/Alcohol:  There are several scenes in bars where plenty of social drinking takes place.
  • Language/Profanity:  The Lord’s name is taken in vain numerous times, and there’s a constant stream of profanity throughout including the “f” word on a couple of occasions.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Ben sketches a picture of one of his one-night stands, her bare bottom is briefly shown. There a couple of other instances of implied sex, nothing explicit is shown.
  • Violence:  In abundance, as to be expected in a Western. There’s an abundance of shooting and fighting. Some scenes are graphic in nature, so if you have a low tolerance for blood, you’ll definitely want to turn your head.
  • Religion:  Although Ben doesn’t exactly live the way the Bible encourages us to, he’s often quoting it. Dan’s family also makes it a priority to pray before meals, even when Ben pokes fun at it.