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|Cowboys & Aliens
dir Jon Favreau
scr Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
prd Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Roberto Orci, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg
with Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, Paul Dano, Noah Ringer, Keith Carradine, Clancy Brown, David O'Hara, Abigail Spencer, Ana de la Reguera
release US 29.Jul.11, UK 17.Aug.11
11/US Universal-DreamWorks 1h58
Men in Brown: Ford and Craig
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
With such a blatant B-movie title, this well-made film really should be more fun to watch. Actually, this is an entertaining Western that sticks very close to the genre and only incidentally features bad guys from another planet.
Jake (Craig) wakes up in the desert with no memory of who he is or why he has a strange metal bracelet clamped onto his arm. He staggers into a dusty town, where the sheriff (Carradine) helps him until he clashes with local bully Percy (Dano), the son of power-mad landowner Dolarhyde (Ford), who has a history with Jake. But when strange airborne "demons" attack the town, Jake discovers that his bracelet is a weapon that can fight them. So Dolarhyde drafts him into a posse to hunt them down.
Like most Westerns, the posse includes the local doctor (Rockwell) and a guy (Beach) who's more of a son to Dolarhyde than the bratty Percy. On the other hand, the sheriff's young son (Ringer) and an improbably hot barmaid (Wilde) tag along as well, suspending logic but livening things up. Fortunately, Craig is rock-solid in the lead role, combining gritty physicality and brooding emotion to play the Man With No Name who slowly discovers who he is. And Ford is clearly having a ball in crotchety Han Solo mode.
So it's strange that the aliens are so barely relevant to what's otherwise a standard searching-for-kidnapped-relatives storyline. As they ride through gorgeous ravines, our heroes confront violent bandits and marauding native Americans before teaming up with them for the final onslaught. There are cleverly dusty effects in the action-packed final act, but the main focus is actually on how old enemies must unite to fend off outsiders.
By contrast, the extraterrestrials are faceless, one-note baddies merely pillaging earth's resources. This is far too simplistic to make the otherwise solidly executed Wild West adventure develop into something interesting. But director Favreau knows how to work charm and humour into his films, so even if the action scenes are never truly exhilarating, there's enough going on here to keep us hooked.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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