The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
By MITCHELL AKSELRAD
As has become clear in its recent revival,
the conventions of the American Western can
be as deadly to a film as the ever-present quick
draw. A town whose name has
some biblical or plot reference,
the cowboy/Indian quarrel, ***
the battle between good and
evil - the remake of "3:10 to 310 to
Yuma" has them all. But they
don't hurt the movie this time, Yuma
no matter how cliche the slut- At Quality16
ty barmaid might be. It's good
ol' fashioned weak storytelling and Showcase
that nearly does "3:10" in. Lionsgate
Instead of its narrative,
James Mangold's follow-up to
"Walk the Line" is held togeth-
er by the talent of its stars, led by Russell Crowe
and Christian Bale. The story: Outlaw Ben Wade
(Crowe) is arrested for multiple robberies and
murders, and the railroad company most harmed
by his crimes hires a few locals and a rancher,
Dan Evans (Bale), to escort him to a train sta-
tion a few towns over. There, they'll meet a train
that will take Wade to Yuma prison where he'll
be tried and likely hanged. On the posse's tail
is Wade's gang, led by sociopath Charlie Prince
(Ben Foster, "Alpha Dog"), who look to wreak
old-school vengeance on his captors.
There are a host of characters on this bill, but
no one will be fooled: You're paying to see Bale
and Crowe in an A-List standoff. This movie is
about them and the mind games they play. It's
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - 9
Michael Passman on balls and senior porn on HBO.
Kimberly Chou makes dire predictions involving Bowie circa Low.
"If that train is late one more time... "
about Evans's resolve and the duo's unique rela-
tionship as they brave the uncivilized west. In
this conceit, Bale and Crowe are respectable and
carry the film the necessary distance. Crowe's
consistent ease counters Bale's on-edge perfor-
mance effectively in a film built on tropes of bal-
ance and dichotomy. But with movies like "L.A.
Confidential" and "American Psycho" to high-
light their resumes, this certainly won't be the
movie for which either of them is remembered.
Marco Beltrami's simple score accentuates
the film's pace nicely, with drums that represent
the time so crucial to Evans's mission and the
guiding melody of a six-string guitar perfectly
matching the six-chamber gun that serves as the
lawless moviescape's only guiding force. Phedon
Papamichael's cinematography is satisfactory,
providing strong contrasts between the nights
and days out west, if not giving the overall piece
a single, defining look.
The flaw, then, is in the story. So what does
that tell you about the work ethic of writers Hal-
sted Welles, Michael Brandt and Derek Haas?
After all, "3:10" is a remake - the writers even
borrow much of the original's structure and dia-
logue. They have a feature-length example avail-
able to them. So what happened?
From page 5
that the track's atrocious; it's
just not 50. He and soul croon-
er Robin Thicke take turns
singing the hook, and the vibe
is simply too soft for a guy who
wears a bulletproof vest. Lyr-
ics are borderline syrupy, rela-
tive to 50 Cent: "They say ... 50
don't know how to treat a lady,
they wrong / I like you a lot."
That ain't Fiddy.
Another single, "AYO Tech-
nology," features the proven
hit-making combination of
Timbaland and Justin Timber-
lake. The beat Timbo provides
sounds like a ghettofied Tetris,
its furiously spastic sixteenth-
notes dripping with JT coos.
And most rap fans would prob-
ably rather play Tetris than lis-
ten to this song - at least those
50 followers who first jumped
on board his crack-boast mix-
tapes. But it's got crossover
potential, which can only lead
to excessive radio play and
increased album sales. So in
50's mind, it's a success.
But it's only when 50 returns
to the grimy, confrontational
sound he's known for that the
results are truly positive. "I
Get Money" is, simply put, one
of the hardest tracks 50's ever
released. The Audio Two "Top
Billin' " sample works bril-
liantly over the dark, repetitive
synths and choppy drum loop
provided by Apex Productionz.
Here 50's at his most cocky:
"When I was young I couldn't
do good, now I can't do bad / I
ride, wreck the new Jag, I just
buy the new Jag."
Lyrically, 50 hasn't changed
much over the course of his
career. Curtis is no exception.
The guns are still poppin'.
The bills are still flashin'. So
aside from the aforementioned
failed experiments, the content
is nothing unexpected.
50's choice of produc-
ers and beats highlights his
desire to attract as many types
of fans as possible. Timbo,
Havoc, Eminem and Dr. Dre
all have production credits,
with Dre having a hand in the
rowdy "Fire" and the bouncy
"Straight to the Bank." But on
an album with 17 songs, there's
a lot of time given to less-prov-
en producers as well. Instead of
rhyming over beats he sounds
the best on, he attempted to
reach out, and it doesn't work.
So, let's say that other rapper
releasing an album today does
outsell 50. And Curtis makes
good on his initial promise
and never again releases a
solo album. Would it be the
end of the world? Would hip
hop cease to exist? Would 50's
most devout followers even be
that disappointed? Although
it seems unlikely he'll do so
regardless of who sells more
- being that another 50 album
is reportedly already near
completion - as Curtis proves,
the answer to all is an emphat-
It's perhaps unsurprising that Wade and
Evans, originally enemies with contrary goals,
form a bond. Fine. But because of this, there are
far too many instances where the characters
seem to be helping the other achieve his goal, a
big misstep in the typical protagonist/antago-
nist relationship. The writers also go to lengths
to explain certain aspects of Wade and Evans's
characters, which in each case leads to scenes
that contradict earlier ones, such as an early
one in which Wade - normally a cool, detached
criminal who'd rather shoot one of his own than
get caught - simply sits around and waits for the
police to arrest him. It's convenient for the plot,
but the contrivance is lost on no one.
Does the movie satisfy? That depends on your
perspective. It's commendable in the sense that
the filmmakers are trying to bring back one of
the greatest film genres, one that seemed lost to
1950s culture and John Wayne's grave. But when
we have modern Westerns like "Unforgiven,"
which challenged every cowboy convention,
and HBO's "Deadwood," with its uncommon
complexity and Shakespearean dialogue, "3:10
to Yuma" just feels insubstantial. Then again,
when Batman's shooting at the baddest Gladia-
tor in the west, who really cares?
doing pretty hood in my pink polo."
And then there's Weezy's lackluster
appearance. Normally, he would evis-
cerate a track like this, but here he
drops an anemic verse: "I don't front
simple / and I don't go backwards / and I
r Gradu- don't practice / and I don't lack shit."
splifying Another problem is Graduation's lack
a wider of introspection. Here West opts for
e almost bottle-popping anthems rather than
r give me reflections on his own shortcomings.
t I'll just But to complain about Gradua-
award." tion's lyrical deficiencies would be to
mplifica- miss the point entirely. For hip-hop
ner's ear albums, it's usually a bad sign when
s, Kanye the production overwhelms the ver-
swagger, bal content. But Kanye West isn't like
breathe. most rappers, and his albums aren't
it occa- like most others'. He won't ever make
e coda of an album like Illmatic or Ready to Die.
too long. Rather than lyrical labyrinths, West
tlight to crafts musical ventures in which
nimpres- lyrics are little more than an after-
"Barry thought. It's but another of Mr. West's
eat closer intriguing dualities: he's no lyricist,
produc- yet he's found massive success, both
ult; West commercially and critically.
press on For all his contradictions, Kanye
m doing West is at least consistent: He's three
go / I'm for three.
From page 5
age, usually depending on
rhymes and punch lines. Fo
ation, West admitted to sin
his rhymes further to reach
audience, and the results ar
embarrassing: "They'd rathes
the 'nigga please' award / Bu
take the 'I got alot of cheese',
To his credit, the verbal si
tion smartly orients the liste
to West's production. At time
even puts away his infamous
allowing his beats room to
The change works, though
sionally wears thin, with the
"Stronger" running a minute
When West turns the spo
his lyrics, the results are us
sive. The Nottz-produced
Bonds" is amisstep, usingabe
to a freestyle backdrop. The
tion is inconspicuous to a fat
lacks the lyrical chops to im
wordplay alone, rapping, "I
pretty good as far as geniuses
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