Tombstone ★★★

"The only law around here is the Cowboys."

Well by golly if Tombstone isn't the rootinest, tootinest, wildly wacky western in all the wild, wild west! Michael Biehn goes to twirlin' his six-shooters and the whole wide saloon down-right erupts in a-hootin' and a-hollerin'! The notorious Cowboys have come to town, and no, they're not called Cowboys because they have anything to do with cattle or ranches or any such frontier-related business, it's because of the red sashes they wear and the crime they go about committing and because I guess they saw the old John Wayne westerns and adopted the moniker from there.

When Tombstone is just being a cheesy cornball 90's western, it's actually quite a blast. It features one of the greatest casts in all of ensemble casting history (of which the western has quite a rich tradition), all of whom are doing extreme caricatures of performances that make the proceedings that much more fun. All the tropes and conventions of the western genre are propped up and blown out of proportion, and in general it's the kind of excessive melodrama just desperate to entertain that makes for pure and simple cinematic joy. Also, there are enough mustaches to make Tom Selleck jealous.

The problem is that this is only one part of the movie, and while it's the longest and strongest and is easily enough to carry the film, there is a lot of other nonsense holding it back from being truly great. The film tries to take on real emotional and thematic weight when Wyatt Earp swears vengeance against the Cowboys, but because it plays its protagonists as fun, silly, gunslinging action heroes, it rings hollow when the film tries to point to the supposedly tragic irony that the good guys are becoming killers themselves. It tries to revel in the entertainment of these men's violence and simultaneously wallow in the consequences, but only half of the equation works and the result ends up feeling hypocritical.

Even worse is how badly all the women are sidelined into their individual subplots and then trotted out when they're needed to add sentimental flavoring to the film. Wyatt Earp's wife is an opium addict, and her suffering is fabulously oversimplified. The film tells us it's her own fault that she's suffering from her addiction, and that Earp clearly just needs to leave her for the bigger-haired lady from his past. The budding romance of Earp and his "true love" (seemingly forgetting that he even has a wife) is painted in the broadest possible strokes and stops the movie dead in its tracks. It seems to only exist to appeal to the four-quadrant brand of entertainment that's so loathsome to me.

So yeah, it's as shallow as a puddle on a clear summer day, but it's also bright and shiny and entertaining enough to burn through just over two hours of your life quite quickly and effortlessly. It feels like it should be 20 minutes shorter and directed by Sam Raimi, but it's fun enough while it lasts.

"Don't worry, my family's rich!"

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