True Grit

Release Date: December 22, 2010
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All hail the Dude.

On the Big Board
Position Staff In Brief
4/123 David Mumpower Perhaps the most amazing part of my love of this film is that I don't like westerns. True Grit is the closest thing to Deadwood I've seen. That's high praise from a Deadwood fanatic.
7/190 Max Braden Hailee Steinfeld is wonderful to watch and Bridges provides a lot of great humor. This is a good western.

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For me, and perhaps for any moviegoer still under the age of 25, Westerns will forever be movies of my father’s generation. Sure, I can appreciate The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly as much as the next guy, but for every classic starring the Man With No Name, there’s a Stagecoach that I’ve yet to see and that, frankly, it might be a while until I get around to seeing.

It is perhaps a result of my limited understanding of the mythos behind the Western genre that I am not eagerly awaiting the release of True Grit, a remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic. The original marked Wayne’s only Oscar win for Best Actor, and while I’m not expert on the film, it seems to fall into the category of: don’t-remake-this-movie-because –to-do-so-will-likely-insult-the-original territory.

The film’s story is easy enough to follow – it’s a high concept cat-and-mouse plot, in which a girl sets out to avenge her father’s death by bringing his murderer to justice. She works alongside a hardened US Marshal and a Texas Ranger, the latter of which is already after the guy for an unrelated murder. I guess the title has something to do with the “true grit” they must all show in overcoming the adversities that lay on their path to vengeance.

As far as pedigree goes, True Grit has it in spades. The behind-the-camera talent is none other the Coen brothers, themselves responsible for the 1980s set, but western themed No Country For Old Men. Already proving themselves to be more than capable of creating taut and understated action sequences, gun-totting standoffs, and malevolent villains, the Coen brothers might be up for the challenging of remaking a classic. Whether or not they can ever again create a villain as terrifying as Anton “what's the most you ever lost on a coin toss” Chigurh, remains to be seen. The onscreen talent is no group of slouches either. Standing in for John “The Duke” Wayne will be Jeff “The Dude” Bridges (not my joke, though I wish it was). Fresh off his Oscar win for Crazy Heart and what is sure to be a box office phenom with Tron: Legacy, Bridges is certainly on a hot streak. The Texas Ranger who joins up with Bridges and the girl will be played by Matt Damon, who seems to only work while the highest of profile directors (seriously, since 2006 he has worked with Greengrass, Soderbergh, Miyazaki, Eastwood, and Scorsese). Josh Brolin, doing something of an about-face from his turn as the “good guy” in No Country, will play the murderer on the run in this Coen brothers outing.

For a brief period in 2007 it looked like Westerns were making a mini-comeback of sorts. The genre had really all but disappeared from the modern movie-going landscape since the mid-90s, and not-so memorable titles like Open Range, The Missing, and The Alamo from ’03 and ’04 were not about to end that trend. But in 2007 we were dealt the aforementioned No Country For Old Men, the long-winded, long-titled, but beautifully shot and acted Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, and one of my absolute favorites of that year, 3:10 To Yuma. It seemed, at long last, to both my father and myself, that Westerns were here to stay – finally, Hollywood was working to bridge the gap between our generations and find common ground. Melding the age-old motifs of the genre (horse drawn buggies, gun-slinging outlaws, and cigar-chomping sheriffs) with modern filmmaking style (explosions, thrilling chase sequences) and A-list talent (Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Russell Crowe, etc.) – it all seemed to add up to a winning formula. And yet, none of these films set the box office on fire, and Assassination was downright overlooked.

So with audiences apparently saying they’re okay with Westerns but not thrilled by them, and with the impressive line-up of talent for True Grit, it’s tough to predict exactly where this one will fall. Also, will there be any backlash against trying to recreate a Wayne classic? Will young movie-goers even realize this is a remake at all? Add up all those factors, and I’d say you have another mid-level hit in the $60-75 million range. (Joshua Pasch/BOP)

Vital statistics for True Grit
Main Cast Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin
Supporting Cast Hailee Steinfeld, Barry Pepper, Paul Rae
Director Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenwriter Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Distributor Paramount Pictures
Official Site
Rating PG-13
Running Time 110 minutes
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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