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</script></div>{/googleAds}There was a time when men were men and bars were called saloons. When you ordered a drink... whiskey was what you got. And if you needed a bullet removed from your gut, you did it without the benefit of anesthesia. The days of the Old West as depicted in the movies anyway were much simpler times indeed. Of course, how accurate movies are in depicting what life was really like back then is anyone's guess, but regardless, movie cowboys are the real cinematic superheroes. I just can't picture Jason Bourne drinking whiskey from a shot glass, and I doubt James Bond ever survived for days with only a few hard-tack biscuits and a handful of dried jerky.

The nearly comatose movie Western gets a shot in the arm with 3:10 to Yuma, James Mangold's revisit of the 1957 John Ford classic based on an Elmore Leonard short story. The best films of the genre always found a way to blend large doses of macho he-man bravado with just the right amount of moral muscle. And 3:10 is no exception. Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas tell the story of a one-legged rancher beaten down by drought in 19th century Arizona, who accepts the job of riding posse to escort a criminal to a prison-bound train some three days away.

Christian Bale plays rancher Dan Evans who lost a foot or leg (it's never made clear exactly which) in the Civil War and has never quite recovered either physically or emotionally. Near starvation since the owner of his ranchland cut off the water supply in hopes of driving him away, Evans sees his participation in the escort party as not only a way to help ease his family's financial burden, but also as a means of proving his manhood to his two sons and wife (Gretchen Mol). Men were expected, back in those days, to do very brave things to protect and provide for their families. And transporting one of the baddest of bad men was about as brave as it got.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the Charlie Manson and Al Capone of his day, as smart and charismatic as he is dangerous. He passes the time between shootings and murders by robbing stages and trains. Part of Wade's danger comes from the way he engages his enemy in calm discussion, asking questions and quoting Bible passages while sizing up for weakness. He's more Hannibal Lecter than Leatherface. And as anyone knows, smart is much more dangerous than stupid. After wasting a bit too much time with a floozy barmaid (Vinessa Shaw), Wade is captured, shackled and readied for the long trip to the city of Contention where he'll be put on a prison train for Yuma, Arizona. He's to be locked away for robbing a well-protected Southern Pacific Railroad stagecoach loaded with payroll cash. But arresting Wade is only the first - and easiest - step in bringing him to justice. From the moment the posse saddles up, they're shadowed by Wade's gang of ruthless bandits, led by gunslinger Charlie Prince (Ben Foster).

The drama in 3:10 to Yuma comes not from gunfights or chases on horseback, but rather from the tension that builds between Wade and Evans who eventually build up a healthy respect for each other. Evans is initially reluctant to even speak to Wade, afraid of exposing a deadly chink in his emotional armor, but he eventually begins to admire Wade's charisma. In Evans, Wade sees the stability of wife and family that he never had. The two manage to find a healthy center of gravity they hope will keep each other alive.

Surely it seemed like casting an Aussie and a Welshman as leads in a drama about settling the American Wild West was taking a significant risk, but director James Mangold's selection of Bale and Crowe paid off in a huge way. In fact, the two are the driving forces of the entire film. And unlike most westerns, 3:10's best moments aren't when the leads are settling differences with their six-shooters, but rather when sizing up each other with words. Also contrary to the natural order of the genre, magic happens when the camera frames a face in extreme close-up rather than on Big Sky Country long shots. The close confines of cinematographer Phedon Papamichael's camera, coupled with brilliant dialogue delivered by great actors on top of their game, allow us to overlook the letdown of a finale where either seasoned gunmen can't aim or bullets really are dumb.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Language and Sound: Closed Captioned; English: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; deleted scenes; director's commentary; making-of featurette; An Epic Explored featurette; Outlaws, Gangs and Posses featurette.

* Commentary - Feature-length audio commentary with director James Mangold
* Featurettes
o "An Epic Explored"
o "Outlaws, Gangs & Posses"
* Documentary
o "Destination Yuma" - making-of documentary.
* Deleted Scenes

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging