Does It Have What It Takes?
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RANT: My housemate wanted me out of the kitchen and out of the house while she made perogies for Christmas Day. I was happy to oblige, but I had a choice to make - go to the malls to spend more money on Christmas gifts or go to the movies. I bet you can't guess what choice I made!
SYNOPSIS: A rough and tough U.S Marshal is enlisted and hired by a head-strong 14 year old woman in order to track down the man who murdered her father.
Can a remake of a Golden Globe and Academy Award winning western ever live up to the original? Can Jeff Bridges live up to the legendary western leading actor who is John Wayne? Screenwriting and directing Coen brothers, Ethan and Joel, bring True Grit back to the screen after a 40 year absence. The Coen brothers are no strangers to period pieces, slices of Americana, or westerns. With Fargo, No Country for Old Men, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Ladykillers under their belts, the Coen brothers have all the right skills.
As with any great modern western, a heavy part of the appeal is the geography. Rugged riders on powerful horse trekking across sweeping plains, snow topped mountain peaks, babbling brooks and raging rivers, camping out under a sky that is all but non-existent in today's urban sprawl. Once the Coens get us past the dust and grit of the start-up western towns, all that is left is the majesty that is the untamed north and west territories. For a U.S. Marshall and a Texas Ranger, roughing in the great outdoors would seem like child's play. But for a 14 year old girl, practically a woman, driven to find her father's killer, can she survive the wilderness?
Jeff Bridges brings Rueben "Rooster" Cogburn back to the screen, a role made famous by John Wayne. Alternately a stumbling drunkard, a vicious lawman, and a regaler of events past, Bridges emotes more with his one free eye than many others say with their whole body. Hailee Steinfeld expertly plays the headstrong young Mattie Ross, the girl looking to put her father's affairs in order, as well as track down his father's killer. Mattie's education demonstrates just how ignorant some adults were in those days (for a few laughs), but her single-mindedness forces her into the Territories with Cogburn despite having little actual experience in the wild (except for a coon hunt). Steinfeld's Ross is both fearless and fearful. Although she knows she needs someone to find and capture Tom Chaney, she eventually realizes that there is more to it than she expected. Matt Damon plays Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, the cocky lawman, with ease. Josh Brolin as killer Tom Chaney is at once brutal, scared and diminished. Lastly, Barry Pepper is barely recognisable as the somewhat noble criminal Lucky Ned Pepper.
Although the True Grit remake is a well-crafted and well-acted western, I personally enjoy the 3:10 to Yuma remake and Unforgiven better. Unforgiven is my personal favorite modern western but True Grit does do the genre proud.
Worth: Matinee or Netflix
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