Tombstone

Tombstone ★★★★½

George P. Cosmatos's "Tombstone" is a well-rendered, completely entertaining Western. Concerned with themes of honor and duty, the film tells a historical and oft-told tale of lawlessness and those who repelled it in the dusty American southwest. Though never thoughtful or subdued, the film is an outstanding and robust genre outing.

Kurt Russell stars as Wyatt Earp in this 1993 adaptation of the US Marshall's based-in-fact legend. Following the period in which the retired lawman moves to Tombstone, Arizona to settle into a quiet life with his brothers, "Tombstone" offers no new angles on Earp or his family; but the story is compelling, nonetheless.

Cosmatos fills his film with an ill-tamed mix of shots and styles. Low angles, high angles, crane shots, and closeups are combined with rack focus, deep focus, slo-mo, and naturalistic set-ups. Moreover, the film is appointed with such obvious genre conventions, like grit-coated villains, facial hair, and expectorating, that the work feels more Hollywood than authentic. The dearth of unified style and wealth of artifice is grating, but those quibbles are forgiven as soon as the film's loudly announced themes kick in.

Those themes are communicated with guns-a-blaring liveliness by a committed and well-placed cast. Russell is an ideal Earp, combining bluster and aspired-for stillness. Outdoing Russell is Val Kilmer's quietly miraculous Doc Holliday. Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Stephen Lang, Powers Boothe, Dana Delaney, Michael Rooker, and Charlton Heston round out the collection of actors.

Though there are stylistic shortcomings, "Tombstone" makes for a rousing Western spectacle. Exciting, emotionally-driven, and fully loaded with characters and plot points, the film is wholly appealing. A minor classic from an era where Westerns worked to make statements and breathe life into the genre, "Tombstone" is a decidedly old fashioned story injected with pleasing and raucous spirit.

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