In Arizona in the late 1800s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the "3:10 to Yuma", a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other's respect. But with Wade's outfit on their trail - and dangers at every turn - the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny.
Here's hoping James Mangold's big, raucous, and ultrabloody remake of 3:10 to Yuma leads some moviegoers to check out Delmer Daves's beautifully lean, half-century-old original. That classic Western spun a tale of captured outlaw Ben Wade (Glenn Ford)--deadly but disarmingly affable--and the small-time rancher and family man, Dan Evans (Van Heflin), desperate enough to accept the job of helping escort the badman to Yuma prison. Wade, knowing that his gang will be along at any moment to spring him, works at persuading the ultimately lone deputy to accept a bribe, turn his back on "duty," and go home safe and rich to his family. That the outlaw has come to admire his captor intriguingly complicates the suspense.All of the above applies in the new 3:10, but it takes a lot more huffing and puffing to get Wade (Russell Crowe this time) and Evans (Christian Bale) into position for the showdown. Mostly, more is less. To Mangold's credit, his movie doesn't traffic in facile irony or postmodern detachment; it aims to be a straight-up Western and deliver the excitement and charisma the genre's fans are starved for. But recognizing that contemporary viewers might be out of touch with the bedrock simplicity and strength of the genre--not to mention its code of honor--Mangold has supplied both Evans and Wade with a plethora of backstory and "motivations." At the overblown action climax, the crossfire of personal agendas is almost as frenetic as the copious gunplay. (By that point the movie has killed more people than the Lincoln County War.) Best thing about the remake is Russell Crowe's Ben Wade, a Scripture-quoting career villain with an artist's eye and a curiously principled sense of whom and when to murder. As his second-in-command, Ben Foster fairly pirouettes at every opportunity to commit mayhem, and Peter Fonda contributes a fierce portrait of an old Wade adversary turned bounty hunter for the Pinkerton detective agency. --Richard T. Jameson