Tombstone

Tombstone ★★★★½

I love Westerns. The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the Dollars trilogy, Unforgiven, and Tombstone — the Western genre has been home to great cinematic masterpieces that shaped the form, and wonderful entertainments that can be rewatched over and over again.

I love Tombstone so much on this first viewing, I must rewatch it. But I love how it has these lovely and fascinating characters, Wyatt Earp and her brothers, played beautifully by the handsome and weighty Kurt Russell and the cowboy Sam Rockwell and also Bill Paxton.

It’s fascinating how much of a wearied and dying romantic and faithful man Doc Holliday is, and how wonderfully Val Kilmer plays him. He looks like a nineteenth-century Johnny Depp, and I love how he carries the character, from his first appearance in a gambling match to his last duel with Ringo, and to his dying moments.

The shootout scene at the O. K. Corral, shown on the poster, is amazing for the way it sets up the geography of the scene and uses the sound of the gunshots and the dynamics of the Earp characters as they bring themselves to a fight and the way it sets up the propulsive flow of the later part of the movie.

The later part, where the Earp Vendetta Ride systematically wipes out the “Cowboys,” has a feel that’s both shocking in its ruthlessness and satisfying in seeing righteous heroes wipe out deadly criminals. It feels a little like something out of the first Mad Max film, where a maddened hero wreaks brutal vengeance on those who killed his family. I love the moment where Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp walks on the creek like Jesus, survives gunfire, and shouts “No” as he kills “Curly Bill” and the other Cowboys. I remember seeing a clip of this scene, yet having this scene played out in the context of the rest of the film feels satisfying.

It’s amazing how the Western, long claimed to be “dead,” still keeps on giving in its own way. Yes, we might not have people making Westerns in the same way. But I am sure the Western genre will survive in one form or another. And we’ll have satisfying films like Tombstone to watch again and again. Ditto for the good old Westerns.

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