Tombstone ★★½

Retired Dad Goals: The Movie...

It’s films like this that led me to thinking that Westerns were stuffy, old-school, and definitely not for me. Not that I’ve seen this before, but it’s hard to not have been aware of it. It’s got that same “Voted Greatest Movie Ever by All Men of a Certain Age” vibe that Gladiator had. But then I saw films like Once Upon a Time in The West, Liberty Valence, and Dead Man (not including all the proto-western Samurai films of Kurosawa). These films were cool. They were subversive and entertaining as well as outlined the tropes of the classic Western like expansion and lawlessness. While I never loved the more classical fare, I started getting into them much more. Who can deny Stagecoach?

From the score to the clear good vs bad structuring, this is definitely one of those classic western movies. When it was this vibe, going full cheese and sincerely wearing all of its influences on its sleeve, it’s actually kind of enjoyable. Surprisingly this may be Kilmer’s best performance and this is obviously a passion project for Russell— So much so, apparently he ghost directed most of this, which may explain a thing or two about where it goes.

Tombstone turns on a dime from sincere classicim to a messy revenge story that wouldn’t be out of place in something more subversive, but it doesn’t work at all. After the famed shootout, the pacing becomes wonky as hell and Earp is plunged into a nihilistic killing montage that is about 40 minutes of screen time. It doesn’t frame it as a man losing his grip or becoming the monster he always was a la John Wick, but as a totally justified action of law & order. It’s either missing an entire character arc or it becomes some kind of fascist propaganda in the end (I really can’t tell).

Regardless, it is very well made in a technical sense (I had no idea Catherine Hardwicke was a production designer before she started directing. She does great work here!) and there was a shortage of this kind of rollicking fare in the 90s, so I get it. Unforgiven (deservedly) and Dances with Wolves (undeservedly) is in this cannon as well, but where the hell is the discourse around The Quick and the Dead?!?!?

(Btw, after True Lies, this was an accidental back-to-back viewing of movies featuring Paxton with a mustache! Always great. May you and your facial hair RIP...)

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