Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Favorite Era: Tombstone (1993)

I'm a bit of a history buff as well of a fan of westerns and Tombstone is a fantastic blending of the two.  Tombstone tells the tale of Wyatt Earp (big shock with the title, I know) in the period before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and his subsequent roaring rampage of revenge following the fallout from the shootout.  It's got a great cast, great action, and is one hell of a fun (if somewhat historically inaccurate) ride.

Let's take a closer look.
  • George Cosmatos (director of Rambo: First Blood Part II) is the director of record but in actuality, Kurt Russell did the bulk of the job after the first director (screenwriter Kevin Jarre) was fired.  Apparently, Kurt gave Cosmatos notes and the director followed them.
  • The opening with Robert Mitchum narrating is just cool as Mitchum's fantastic voice really outs you in the mood for a great western.
  • Michael Biehn is the standout bad guy, giving Johnny Ringo a real sense of near-psychotic danger.  This is tempered by a rather refined intelligence which we see in the opening scene as he and the other Cowboys (led by Powers Boothe as Curly Bill) shoot up a wedding.
  • Powers Boothe is good too, giving Curly Bill a nice swagger.  Boothe is always good, I sort of see him as Michael Ironside without the Canadian accent.
  • Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott are great as the Earps (Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil respectively).  Russell is cool as always (the sheer number of awesome moments he has would require a small book to cover in full); Paxton is his usual funny and reckless self and Elliott brings an earthy charm to his role.  Having that voice doesn't hurt matters much either.
  • Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday is the undisputed highlight of the film.  He's funny, charming, deadly, even a little sympathetic all things considered.  It's a great performance that should have gotten a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars at the very least.  I'm not always a fan of Kilmer but when he's good (as he is here), he's really good.
  • The sheer number of great character actors on display here is nothing short of amazing.  In addition to the actors I already mentioned, Michael Rooker, b-movie vet Billy Zane, Billy Bob Thornton, Stephen Lang (his Ike Clanton is a wonderfully amusing bad guy) and bunch of others have roles.  Hell, even legend Charlton Heston has a small role.
  • The Thornton scene is the first great moment as Russell thoroughly intimidates the man into leaving down with a few slaps while barely having to raise his voice.  Just fantastic.
  • If there is a fault with the movie, and truth be told it's not that much a a fault, it would be the dearth of good female roles.  Wyatt has a bit of a romance with an actress and there are a few other minor roles but for the most part it's a guy flick of the highest order.  The problem is that the romance is rather trivial and undercooked, especially when compared to the rest of the film which is just brawny as hell.
  • I dig the tension between Holliday and Ringo.  Both Kilmer and Biehn play their roles in a relatively low key manner (though still hammy in a way which is fun) and their one-upping of each other with not only knowledge of Latin but also fancy gun/cup twirling is a great moment.
  • The buildup to the big gunfight is well done, as is the fight itself.  Whereas the actual fight took about a minute and a half, we get a little more because dammit sometimes reality is too damned boring.  It's a very good action beat.
  • Interestingly, in real life Wyatt wasn't quite as reluctant to get involved as he is in the film.
  • The attacks on Wyatt's family are pretty good, though the thunderstorm going on is a bit over the top.  Wyatt vowing revenge is awesome though.  Generally it's a good idea to have Kurt Russell quoting the bible while holding a rifle, wild-eyed.
  • The ensuing rampage of revenge is a good one, capped off by the awesome sight of Wyatt stomping across a stream while Bill fires at him and misses completely, finally being shot point blank by Wyatt.  Making it even better is that this apparently is how it really happened.
  • Also good is Doc's showdown with Ringo.  Funnily enough, the real Ringo's death is something of a mystery as he wasn't quite the total sociopath in the film.  Best guess is that it was suicide.
  • While the film is generally great, I do have to admit it sags a bit in the last act.  After Wyatt has his revenge, the film sort of wanders a bit until finally ending but the rest of the film is so good that bit really doesn't hurt it that much.
 Tombstone is nearly perfect, save for some flaws here and there and a third act that sags a little.  Still, it has good performances and some awesome moments and is well worth watching.

1 comment:

  1. Plain and simple, "Tombstone" is a fun movie! There's just so much to love...great cast, great script. I find myself needing to rewatch it every few months.


About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.