3:10 to Yuma

Taking a break from papers, prep for our spring semester, and the heavy-duty (and worthwhile) intellectual razzmatazz on this site (and our sibling blog on books), I watched an old western, based on an Elmore Leonard story. Yuma stars a really wonderful Glenn Ford, playing a manipulative, smart-talking serpent of a bad man (who may have some kind of code in there, under the smirk)–caught and guarded, before the titular train to prison, by a smalltime family-man rancher (Van Heflin) trying to make a few bucks to get through a drought. It’s nothing special, but it’s smart and well-made and I set all else aside and sank into the pleasures of a finely-etched B flick.

Anyone got any other less-known, escapist pleasures to recommend, as semesters get going?

21 thoughts on “3:10 to Yuma

  1. I can’t imagine you haven’t seen this, reynolds, but I’ve found that Bad Day at Black Rock is as enjoyable a piece of filmmaking there is. Like Yuma, it’s nothing special, but smart and well-made. Spencer Tracy gives a fantastic performance.

  2. ‘Trespass’ with Bill Paxton, William Sadler, Ice-T and I-Cube. A great B-movie and the first DVD I ever owned. It was a gift from… Reynolds (though I doubt he would endorse the choice)!

  3. I prefer the Kurt Russell theme… Escape from New York, The Thing, Executive Decision (not least because Steven Seagal gets sucked out of a plane in the first 20 minutes), and Dark Blue (which is actually better than a B-movie).

  4. a famous Hollywood story goes that Seagal refused to leave his trailer because his character was going to die (and that kind of thing just doesn’t happen to Seagal). After hours of pleading with the emotionally fragile actor, others got him out with the promise to comb his ponytail a thousand times and let him get first crack at the caterer’s lunch tables.

  5. In between moments where I was propping my kid’s head over a bowl as he coughed himself into vomiting, I watched a Korean gangster flick that thoroughly hit the spot. A Bittersweet Life was contemplative for about forty-five minutes, carefully laying out the life and character of a syndicate rising-star who is particularly good with the violence but not particularly inclined. The lead (Byung-hun Lee) is outstanding–one of my favorite aspects of the film is that he is never portentously philosophical, never anguished in a Bad-Lieutenant way but he nonetheless conveys a flurry of complicated thoughts and emotions in every action, even while we watch him drive his car.

    And of course then it stops being contemplative and is gripping revenge stuff, narratively familiar but done with visual gusto and a fair bit of the olde ultra-vee. The film was also notable for its sure hand and delight in dissonant tones.

    Now, I’d note that I hold my head’s child up while he vomits, while Chris forces his child to watch Jesus stuff.

  6. If you took the trouble to exorcise the devil within Max he would not be vomiting in the first place. I practice preventative healing with my kids and if that means watching Jesus stuff, so be it.

    Netflix does not list ‘Bittersweet Life.’ Where did you find it?

  7. I saw a trailer for it in Ireland a year ago, so I bought it on ebay. You wanna borrow it? I could and would happily send you a package with a few unavailable flicks… (and you can just send ’em along whenever you’re done, along with your handy Howell Guide to Parenting).

  8. That would be great. I can watch anything you send pretty quickly because I’m on leave and finding it hard to get excited about my next project. I’ll send an address by email.

  9. John’s fine quip fits very neatly into what Robert Ray has so precisely described, in his classic The Churlish Snap as a Symptom of the Film Professor’s Ego, as Hankketchumish. All blog comments can be fit into one of the three main narrative types Ray defines.

  10. A strong rec for another version of this film–the new Yuma is really damn fine, despite one or two very minor missteps where it gets a little myth-y-eyed for my tastes. But throughout it tends toward smartly-imagined and tightly-edited set pieces, lean and witty dialogue, and an attention to the small details of storytelling (the careful crafting of lenses and windows with small imperfections; the for-the-most-part precision of every minor character’s casting and performance).

    But what really sells this is Bale and Crowe, both of whom do very fine work–Bale in particular. He has a scene, one that seems a bit familiar with he and his wife (the strong but minimally-used Gretchen Mol) arguing in a side-room about what to do regarding the bad man in the adjoining main room. Both are whispering, and in terms of content and that formal set-up (the whispering) the scene’s rife with potential for overly-amplified portents, hopped-up scenery-chewing, big BIG acting. And Bale just fucking nails it; I almost leaned toward the screen so I could hear better what he was saying.

    I enjoyed this a lot. I know John is curious about Max so I’ll just say that when I take the bad man to the train, I won’t give three figs if Max thinks poorly of me for taking the dough and scramming.


    i wonder if anyone beside mike has seen the just-released-on-dvd version of this with bale and crowe. it’s a love story, really, with all the accoutrements of seduction, sexual tension, pretty faces, loss, and grief, but it seemed to me a rather lame, soppy, and unconvincing one. i’m not disagreeing with mike that bale and crowe are very fine in it, but the script and direction, bah.

  12. I saw it. It seemed a bit perfunctory to me. Crowe can be sly and humorous while Bale grows more earnest by the hour. Somebody find this young man a comedy

  13. I watched the remake in a movie theater back when it was released, so I can’t comment on the DVD. But I think I agree with you, Gio. The lead performances were good, even very good (no matter how weak the movie, Christian Bale is always worth watching), but the movie itself struck me as a fairly generic western without much to distinguish it.


    What really bothered me, though, was the ending. The entire premise of the movie is upended when Crowe happily gets on the train commenting that he has escaped before. So… why the whole stupid enterprise of shoot-outs and hostages that precede that final moment?

  14. Hm–wasn’t sure where to stick this, not wanting to spend much time on a full review, but: A Dirty Carnival reminded me of the superior A Bittersweet Life, as it’s another gritty Korean gangster film with an off-center sense of humor and many wry, thoughtful moments for character study. The protagonist Byung-du (the strong Zo In-Sung) is a low-level, fairly likable thug, who has ambitions and a gentle good humor belied by his occasional intensely-ruthless moments of engagement with his job. The film is much the same, veering between intriguing study of characters (and of young professionals’ lives/anxieties), then pitching sprawling, sloppy, invigorating battles with whole crews of bat- and knife-wielding thugs. The film is too long, and too unfocused; it also uses a film-within-a-film shtick that doesn’t fully engage (Byung-du’s old schoolchum Min-ho is a director seeking to hit it big with a –yup– gritty realist gangster film). Still, I think it’s an intriguing and distinct version of such films, and may particularly intrigue my fellow actionites Arnab and Chris. (The fight scenes are pretty damned interesting.)

  15. Thanks for the recommendation. ‘A Dirty Carnival’ is everything you say, including being too long and unfocused. But its appeal is the way it charts the lower levels of gangsterdom. Byung-doo and his crew are barely scratching out a living, and as you note, the fight scenes involve fists, feet, baseball bats and the occasional knife, but never guns. They are brawls more than fights. The sensibility is entirely different, but in the depiction of low level gangsters seeking a big break while trying to manage family and friends, it covers some of the same ground as ‘Mean Streets’. The karaoke scenes are fun, especially the regular instrumentalist who lurks in the background displaying an array of bizarre facial expressions.

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