A little different than the 1957 Glenn Ford/Van Heflin Western, James Mangold's 3:10 to Yuma surges with true grit even through a contrived finish.
It helps having Russell Crowe (remembered in the genre in The Quick and the Dead) and Christian Bale (Batman Begins) in the leads as Ben Wade and Dan Evans, a vicious thief and a downtrodder, injured Arizona rancher, respectively.
Bale's decent man is about to lose his farm to drought and is looked at with disappointment by his older son William (Logan Lerman) and disapproving wife (Gretchen Mol of Notorious Bette Page).
Mangold, who has managed strong acting performances in his Walk the Line and Girl, Interrupted, invests much visual aplomb in a stagecoach robbery headed by the wicked Wade and his minions.
Dan has the wherewithall to put the authorities on track to catch Ben, then putting his life on the line to escort the criminal to the closest train station to make the 3:10 train to Yuma prison. And, the mastermind knows that his ruthless righthandman (Ben Foster of Alpha Dog) will do whatever for his boss.
The gritty realism is all apparent here like the struggle Bale's fighter pilot endured in the recent Rescue Dawn. The setting juxtaposes the austerity of life from the conventions of the Western with the conflicts gripping these people.
Mangold works up wit and lively moments, of course some of the shootout variety, but understanding the agenda of the city slicker like the one played by Dallas Roberts manifests the corruption of power. So, there is a trenchant feel given the aspect of where the ownership really presides.
What makes 3:10 to Yuma absorbing is the palpable chemistry between Crowe and Bale, as the former calls to mind some of his compelling work in L.A. Confidential. Their visages really help relate their personal dilemmas in an intense way. Foster does come on as a monstrous thug running nearly on pure adrenaline.
Ultimately, the viewer understands the moral conflict at the heart of some vividly realized confrontations, even some possibly improbable decision-making. Still, even if it seems jarring radical from the original (for those loved the early work of Ford), the interpretative nature of unfolding courage under fire is worth the deliberate, often dynamic ride.