Rated: R due to violence. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: December 25, 1993 Released by: Hollywood Pictures
There is a tradition of gangs in America. During the 1870s, the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona was filled with them. Violence and revenge were their way of life, not much different from the youth gangs of today. They had colors, in this case red bandanas. They used drugs (opium), were concerned with respect and any remark taken wrong could result in a shooting. They performed ride-by shootings on horseback. It was a violent, unsafe town.
Director George Cosmatos did well with the soundtrack, the scenic beauty of Arizona and with scenes of dry lightning which preceded and set the tone for violent actions. There remains, however, a sameness about westerns. The players ride, shoot, kill the bad guys, along with some good guys, and it all comes out all right. It took me about half way into the film to begin to appreciate where Cosmatos was going. His western is extended somewhat beyond the O.K. Corral shoot-out. How many times has that been filmed? He reaches for a larger view of the history of his characters. Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) lived into the 1020s and was married to Josephine Marcus (Dana Delaney) for 45 years after the O.K. Corral incident.
The performances of Russell and Delaney, along with Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday and Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp, are better than the film itself. The use of Charlton Heston in a small part as a rancher is a great touch, as is the strong and convincing voice of Robert Mitchum as the narrator.
There are interesting parallels to our cities today and there is much to admire in this production. The violence, which perhaps is necessary, detracts from the credibility of the history. It could have been muted and had the same effect. I was not completely convinced by the film; however, it you are a fan of westerns, you'll probably enjoy this trip to the old west.