‘3:10 TO YUMA'

James Mangold has remade the 1957 semiclassic Western, 3:10 to Yuma, in the same way that Martin Scorsese remade Cape Fear. In both cases, a story told in a modest, taut black-and-white movie has been reupholstered in color and packed with thunderous special effects, hammy acting, pretentious psychology, and doses of hyperviolence entirely unjustified by the needs of the story.

The basic situation and even some of the dialogue of the earlier screenplay, Halsted Welles’s fine adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s short story, have been retained by the new writers, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas. A farmer, ruined by draught and desperate for the reward money, agrees to escort a notorious outlaw to the train that will take him to prison. The criminal, Ben Wade, ruthless but courtly and (allowing for his profession) strangely honorable, plays upon the farmer’s fears and offers him more money than he would make fulfilling his assignment. Holed up with his charge in a second-floor hotel room and gradually deprived of any assistance while under siege by Wade’s gang, the farmer, Dan Evans, grows ever more rattled, yet ever more determined to make the final walk through dusty streets to the train station. And Wade, just as determined to escape, can’t help but admire his captor’s gumption.

Obviously this is a story that needs a tightly confined setting, Hemingwayesque characterizations, and, above all, narrative...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.