Tombstone

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), a retired peace officer with a notable reputation, reunites with his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliott) and Morgan (Bill Paxton) in Tucson, Arizona, where they venture on towards Tombstone, a small mining town, to settle down. There they encounter Wyatt’s long-time friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), a Southern gambler and expert gunslinger, who seeks relief from his worsening tuberculosis. Also newly arrived in Tombstone with a traveling theater troupe are Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany) and Mr. Fabian (Billy Zane). Meanwhile, Wyatt’s wife, Mattie Blaylock (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), is becoming dependent on a potent narcotic. Just as Wyatt and his brothers begin to profit from a stake in a gambling emporium and saloon, they have their first encounter with a band of outlaws called the Cowboys. Led by “Curly Bill” Brocious (Powers Boothe), the Cowboys are identifiable by the red sashes worn around their waists.

Wyatt, though no longer a lawman, is pressured to help rid the town of the Cowboys as tensions rise. Shooting aimlessly after a visit to an opium house, Curly Bill is approached by Marshal Fred White (Harry Carey, Jr.) to relinquish his firearms. Curly Bill instead shoots the marshal dead and is forcibly taken into custody by Wyatt. The arrest infuriates Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang) and the other Cowboys. Curly Bill stands trial, but is found not guilty due to a lack of witnesses. Virgil, unable to tolerate lawlessness, becomes the new marshal and imposes a weapons ban within the city limits. This leads to the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which Billy Clanton (Thomas Haden Church) and other Cowboys are killed. Virgil and Morgan are wounded, and the allegiance of county sheriff Johnny Behan (Jon Tenney) with the Cowboys is made clear. As retribution for the Cowboy deaths, Wyatt’s brothers are ambushed; Morgan is killed, while Virgil is left handicapped. A despondent Wyatt and his family leave Tombstone and board a train, with Clanton and Frank Stilwell close behind, preparing to ambush them. Wyatt sees that his family leaves safely, and then surprises the assassins; he kills Stilwell, but lets Clanton return to send a message. Wyatt announces that he is a U.S. marshal, and that he intends to kill any man he sees wearing a red sash. Wyatt, Doc, a reformed Cowboy named Sherman McMasters (Michael Rooker), along with their allies Texas Jack Vermillion (Peter Sherayko) and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson (Buck Taylor), join forces to administer justice.

Wyatt and his posse are ambushed in a riverside forest by the Cowboys. Hopelessly surrounded, Wyatt seeks out Curly Bill and kills him in a fast draw gunfight. Curly Bill’s second-in-command, Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), becomes the new head of the Cowboys. When Doc’s health worsens, the group are accommodated by Henry Hooker (Charlton Heston) at his ranch. Ringo sends a messenger (dragging McMasters’ corpse) to Hooker’s property telling Wyatt that he wants a showdown to end the hostilities; Wyatt agrees. Wyatt sets off for the showdown, not knowing that Doc had already arrived at the scene. Doc confronts a surprised Ringo and kills him in a duel. Wyatt runs when he hears the gunshot only to encounter Doc. They then press on to complete their task of eliminating the Cowboys, although Clanton escapes their vengeance. Doc is sent to a sanatorium in Colorado where he later dies of his illness. At Doc’s urging, Wyatt pursues Josephine to begin a new life. The film ends with a narration of an account of their long marriage, ending with Wyatt’s death in Los Angeles in 1929.

REVIEW:

 I’ve seen quite a few westerns in my time…some good and some not so much. By the time Tombstone was released in 1993, the western genre had been long forgotten. Watching this film this afternoon, I applaud them for the attempt, but there is something about this film that just doesn’t stack up the those westerns of the genres heyday.

The film’s plot revolves around the later life of Wyatt Earp, after his retirement from being a peace officer. Along with Earp, notable western characters such as Doc Holliday and Earp’s 2 brothers, are present, as is the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Also present is the Earp vendetta and the sad death of Doc Holliday.

I love westerns that have lots of shootouts. The thing about this film is that you have to sit through a good hour or so of talking, character development, and other boring things before we finally get the big payoff. I realize this had to be done in order to get he audience behind or against all the characters and all, but good grief did it seem to drag on…and on…and on…and on….and on.

The infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral lasted all of maybe 2 minutes. Granted, this is Tombstone and not Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but it just seemed that they rushed through something that should have been a major focal point of the film. 

They did spend some time on the Earp vendetta ride, which I thought was a bit of a trade-off, especially since it wasn’t as popular as said gunfight.

Kurt Russell does an ok job with his role as Wyatt Earp, but for some reason he just seemed cold and aloof to me.

Sam Elliott fit perfectly in this role, even if it was a small one. We’ve all seen this guy in films before. He is just built to be a wild west gunman, and this is proof.

Val Kilmer is the highlight of the cast, of that there is no question. However, I have issue with how he portrayed Doc Holliday. I don’t ever recall reading anywhere that Doc was this flamboyant or that he resembled Guy Fawkes (the guy who face V wears in V for Vendetta). At times, I thought Holliday was homosexual. Kilmer may have done some of his best acting here, but at what cost to the legacy of Doc Holliday?

Bill Paxton and Dana Delaney are also good in their supporting roles, yet nothing memorable.

See if you can spot Jason Priestly and Billy Bob Thornton in the cast. Here’s a hint, Billy Bob is not the near skeleton he is today.

I’m not really into drama, for the most part, and that was a good chunk of this film, so I really couldn’t get too involved in Tombstone as much as I would have liked. Not to mention the fact that these filmmakers just don’t possess the skills to make a great western the way people were once able to pull off. Would I recommend this to anyone? Sure, while this film isn’t the most exciting western in the world, it is far from the worst. Still, if you’ve never seen a western, don’t judge the genre by this subpar entry into the genre.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

One Response to “Tombstone”

  1. […] only if you’re a fan of classic cinema. Otherwise, you’d do better with something like Tombstone. Still, if you’re up for it, give this one a […]

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