3:10 to Yuma

Back in the Pleistocene Era (1957), Elmore Leonard's short story 3:10 to Yuma, became a tense, tight High Noon knockoff of a Western about a rancher (Van Heflin) trying to get an outlaw (Glenn Ford) on a train to Yuma prison so he could collect a reward and pay his debts. By the end — it's a three-day trip through Apache territory — no one would help the poor bastard.

The same plotlines run through this flashily entertaining remake from Walk the Line director James Mangold, who already updated the material in 1997's Cop Land. The story's moral code clearly speaks to Mangold, and he's put two top-notch actors in the saddle. Christian Bale is the anti-American Psycho as rancher and family man Dan Evans, and a dynamite Russell Crowe practically licks his lips as charm-boy villain Ben Wade. Despite kicking up the violence quotient (a Gatling gun figures in a coach robbery) and freighting Freud into the subtext (these cowboys sure are Chatty Cathys), Mangold digs in his spurs as Dan takes on Wade's gang. Ben Foster is a nutso wonder as a killer with a man-crush on boss Wade, and shout-outs to Peter Fonda as a bounty hunter and Logan Lerman as Dan's needling teen son. Maybe this redo didn't need so many bells and whistles, but Mangold brings it home.

From The Archives Issue 247: September 8, 1977