“Why Ed does this mean we’re not friends anymore? You know Ed, if I thought you weren’t my friend… I just don’t think I could bear it!” -Doc Holiday (Tombstone)
Directed by George P. Cosmatos, Kevin Jarre (uncredited)
Written by Kevin Jarre
The more Westerns I watch the more I realize that this genre is just too much fun to be lost to history. I mean, I think I could watch footage of horse chases for hours on end and never stop enjoying it. However, it was a genre that I generally ignored for a long time, and it was the Coen Brother’s True Grit that piqued my interest in the genre and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (which was like a Shakespearean tragedy in the West) that made me realize how much Westerns have to offer. I plan to watch a lot more Westerns in the future, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
The film Tombstone first caught my attention with its poster. Four mustachioed gunmen clad in black walking towards the camera, with Kurt Russell leading the pack. The image was just to cool to ignore, and Kurt Russell is always fun to watch. Despite the general criticisms of Tarantino’s Death Proof, Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike was amazing. So I couldn’t wait to see Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp kicking some outlaw ass, but it was really Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday that brought this movie up to a whole new level. Now, I know that Kilmer hasn’t had the best luck with movies over the course of his career, though one could blame Batman Forever for that. In fact the only movie that I had seen with Kilmer before Tombstone was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is a great movie and Kilmer was really fun in it. Kilmer, in Tombstone, delivers a performance that I can only equate to Heath Ledger as The Joker. The rest of the cast was a grab bag of some phenomenal actors, like Sam Elliot, Bill Paton, Charlton Heston, etc. Just check out the IMDb cast page and see what I mean (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108358/fullcredits?ref_=tt_cl_sm#cast).
Tombstone isn’t a cinematic masterpiece, its a lot more Die Hard than The Departed. That’s not saying that that Die Hard is bad, because I would have to be crazy to think that. I’m really saying that Tombstone is not a subtle movie, it’s a fun fest of action and kick-ass dialogue that makes you want do push-ups and play poker for pink slips. Which makes my major problem with it so much of a bigger problem.
In order to explain what I mean, I’m going to draw a comparison that may be a bit odd. Rest assured it will make sense eventually.
In 2010 a movie called Morning Glory hit theaters. In Morning Glory, Rachel McAdams plays a TV News Producer charged with the task of trying to save a struggling morning news show. The film is forgettable and if you wanted to watch it I suggest looking in the $2 bin at Best Buy. It wasn’t terrible, in fact in the interactions between Diane Keaton’s veteran morning news host and Harrison Ford’s grumpy serious news anchor were some great little moments.
What really sunk Morning Glory was an unnecessary love story. While Rachel McAdams is giving it all she’s got to save that struggling morning show, she has a love interest trying to win her heart. The whole thing is so useless that if you look at the Wikipedia plot summary, only five sentences in the five-paragraph summary even mention the love interest. The film’s plot is about the success or failure of this morning show, not her love life.
And this is where Tombstone suffers at the expense of almost the same issue. A love interest wasn’t needed. I could hardly call it shoe horned, because Tombstone is based on actual events. But the film makes no attempt to try and make the love interest be a vital part of the story. Wyatt Earp arrives to town with his opiate addicted wife, and he soon meets a free-spirited actress who never wants to settle down, he is smitten, but she wants to be free and live off of room service and he isn’t sure about that life. It doesn’t sound half bad on paper, you know except the part where Wyatt starts pushing away his addiction-afflicted wife. If Tombstone was some sort of Western Romance Drama it might even work, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. All of the stuff that makes Tombstone good comes from the story of a group of retired earnest lawmen that must saddle up once more to rid a town of a gang of outlaws. But these two sides of the plot have no effect on each other. I was waiting for some sort of intersection between them, but it never came. On top of that, the writing for the free-spirited love interest was dire; it was like the writer was taking pages out of “Writing a Free-Spirited Love Interest for Dummies.”
I don’t want to go on and on about it though, because Tombstone, even with its issues, is a really fun movie. One that I can see coming back to again and again, especially for Val Kilmer’s remarkable performance. I would love to see him make a comeback to better roles, similar to Matthew Mcconaughey’s McConaissance.
So like a… Valnaissance?
A “Val”iant Return?
A “Kilm” Back?
Cameron’s Rating for Tombstone: 7/10
PS: Patrick Wilson, an amazingly underrated actor, played the love interest in Morning Glory. Watch Hard Candy and The HBO miniseries of “Angel’s in America” to see examples of his better roles.
What I listened to while writing this:
Weird Al’s Album Mandatory Fun
Weezer’s Album Everything Will Be Alright In The End
The score to True Grit (2010)
Nth Degree – Morningwood
Movie Recommendations from this review:
True Grit (2010)
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
The Dark Knight
“I’m your huckleberry…” – Doc Holiday
As always, feedback and suggestions make me happy