Like my book reviews site, these are movie reviews I write for entertainment purposes only. These are just my reviews and my opinions. They are not endorsed by Blogger or any movie studios or anyone else. So there. I borrowed my scoring system from the Metacritic site, which does not imply an endorsement from them, although I think they do have a very nice website. I convert the 1-100 scores into 1-4 stars, essentially it works like this:

1 star = 25 points
2 stars = 50 points
3 stars = 75 points
4 stars = 100 points

And then if something falls about halfway between, then I'll give it an added half-star.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

True Grit (2010)

I think it was Roger Ebert's review that said what the Coen Brothers did in remaking "True Grit" was make a really good Western.  I have to agree with that.  The first time after watching this On Demand it surprised me just how straightforward the plot was.  No real twists or turns or much out of the ordinary.  Just a simple, straight ahead Western.  For a Western it might be really, really good but since the closest to a Western I've watched all the way through is "Dances With Wolves" I really wouldn't know.

The straight ahead plot starts first with a murder.  14-year-old Mattie Ross's father is killed by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and he promptly skips town to light out for Indian Territory.  Mattie refuses to take this lying down, so she hires US Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to follow Chaney.  Before they can set out, Mattie is visited by Texas Ranger LaBeouf (Matt Damon), who has also been pursuing Chaney for shooting a Texas senator.  He wants to take Chaney back to Texas so he can collect a reward, but Mattie refuses, wanting Chaney to die for killing her father, not for killing a Texas senator.

Without her knowledge though Rooster and LaBeouf set out together and agree to share the reward.  Mattie catches up to them, nearly drowning herself and her horse in the process.  This leads to a falling-out between Rooster and LaBeouf when Rooster refuses to send his employer home.  So Rooster and Mattie go off on their own to search for Chaney.

As you'd expect there are some gun battles and really everything except a tribe of Indians in war paint to attack them.  Though it's mostly through dumb luck that they eventually find Chaney for the final showdown.  Is that a spoiler?  Well, what kind of Western would it be without a final showdown?

Anyway, as you'd expect from the Coen Brothers, this is a well-made film that intersperses violence and humor in about equal doses.  The acting is all top-notch, as you'd expect from this all-star roster.  What it reminds me of mostly is "Road to Perdition" which combined a violent gangster movie with a coming-of-age story.  Only it's here on the trail in Indian territory in the 1880s or so that Mattie comes of age.

My main complaint, as I mentioned in the beginning, is that this is all so simple.  Mattie is the spunky girl coming of age.  Rooster is the gruff loner with a heart.  LaBeouf is the noble Ranger.  The only real non-archetype is the outlaw Ned Pepper (Barry Pepper) who is the villain and probably evil but not really TOO evil.  Maybe it was just me but I couldn't help thinking if they'd cast someone a little younger for LaBeouf they could have had a little romantic thing going on with him and Mattie.  It seemed towards the end like it could go that direction, but a guy in his mid-30s and a 14-year-old girl would probably have made people too uncomfortable.

Anyway, since it's finally on DVD (which for some reason took six months when most movies go from theater to DVD nowadays in about half that) it's a good rental.  It's not as good as other Coen Brothers movies like "No Country for Old Men" or "Fargo" but it's definitely better than most of the schlock on the New Rental shelves.  If you're someone like my dad who grew up with the John Wayne version you might not care for it much.  I mean, come on, Jeff Bridges is not The Duke.

My score:  75/100 (3 stars)
Metacritic score:  80/100 (3 stars)

PS:  In the credits I noticed Buster Coen played "Mr. Damon's Abs Double."  What the heck is that?  A stunt double for his midsection?

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