The western isn’t dead, exactly, but recent efforts in the genre have been self-conscious, driven either by an urge toward revisionism or an effort to recapture the epic sweep of the work of masters like John Ford or, for another generation, Sergio Leone. 3:10 to Yuma is refreshing because it doesn’t seem to have a nostalgic agenda. It’s an unflashy potboiler featuring stagecoaches and six-shooters, a wagonload of stolen gold, and a full complement of desperate men on both sides of the law. James Mangold is best known these days for directing Joachim Phoenix in Walk the Line, but 3:10 to Yuma has more in common with his earlier film Cop Land, which cast Sylvester Stallone as one good cop standing up to a whole bunch of bad ones. Christian Bale stars as Dan Evans, a destitute rancher who agrees to escort notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) to a prison train in exchange for a desperately needed cash bounty. Hardly a shot-for-shot remake of the Glenn Ford original, the new movie spends more time on the journey and less at the destination. It’s gritty and exciting, although the last action scene is outlandishly staged and Mangold can’t quite sell the dynamic that develops between the two leads. You can see Crowe struggling throughout to summon the eccentricity that would make his character more credible, and while Bale has the easier job it’s his smoldering, unwavering focus, played against Crowe’s pointed taunts and wisecracks, that makes 3:10 a pleasure to watch. B
This review originally appeared in the White Plains Times.