UK Release date: 11th February 2011
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 22nd January 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
Having seen, and loved, the original 1969 version of this story starring John Wayne I was intrigued to see the Coen Brothers’ take on it. As is usually the case with these things, it didn’t show at my local cinema and so I waited patiently for it to appear on TV. As you can probably guess, it put in an appearance this week and I’m very pleased to report its well worth a look. I will tell you why after this brief summary.
Fourteen year old Mattie Ross has been sent to claim the body of her dead father, shot by a man employed by him called Tom Chaney. Now Chaney had run for the ‘Indian Territory’ after the event which makes him the responsibility of the U.S. Marshall’s service. To this end, Mattie engages U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn to bring Chaney to justice. A Texas Ranger, LaBoeuf, is also interested in finding Chaney as he had shot a Senator while down there. Cogburn and LaBoeuf plan to find Chaney on their own and bring him to justice in Texas, but they hadn’t bargained for the tenacity of the young Mattie Ross. We follow them into the ‘Indian Territory’ in their pursuit of the fugitive who they believe to be running with one Lucky Ned Pepper. I will leave it there or the Spoiler Police (Western’s Division) will be sending Cogburn after me (again).
Nicely shot, but with a much ‘starker’ feel to it than the original; it also lacks the majesty of the surroundings that the original had. Having said that, this doesn’t detract too much from the story which is very well written and performed. And on that subject, we have to give praise to Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn who, despite a rather mumbled performance, does really well! Also worthy of note were both Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross and Matt Damon as LaBoeuf who both put in great performances also. Honourable mentions must also go to Josh Brolin as Tom Chaney and Barry Pepper as Lucky Ned Pepper.
Much has been made of the dialogue and how it more closely matches the original novel. Well, yes it does, but then again the 1969 version wasn’t a million miles away from it either. There are, however, some interesting, and welcome, additions and alterations to the narrative that weren’t included in the original. I really liked these and they gave the film a little extra that I wasn’t expecting. Now I have to talk about the performance of Hailee Steinfeld; while quite different to Kim Darby’s 1969 performance, I found the character grew on me as it went on. I believe Kim Darby was quite a bit older when she made the film and I think is shows in her slightly more polished performance. That’s not to take anything away from Hailee Steinfeld, she’s a fine actress and I hope this performance brings her much success in the future. Over all, I like both films but the Coen’s version slightly has the edge (at the moment). Worth a watch… Hell yes!... Recommended.
My score: 8.2/10.
IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 106,408 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ Score: 96/100 (based on 248 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 86/100 (based on 108,965 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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40-Year-Old Mattie: People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's blood. But it did happen. I was just 14 years of age when a coward by the name of Tom Chaney shot my father down and robbed him of his life and his horse and two California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band. Chaney was a hired man and Papa had taken him up to Fort Smith to help lead back a string of Mustang ponies he'd bought. In town, Chaney had fallen to drink and cards and lost all his money. He got it into his head he was being cheated and went back to the boarding house for his Henry rifle. When Papa tried to intervene, Chaney shot him. Chaney fled. He could have walked his horse, for not a soul in that city could be bothered to give chase. No doubt Chaney fancied himself scot-free. But he was wrong. You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free, except the grace of God.
Mattie Ross: Who's the best marshal?
Sheriff: Hmm, I'd have to think on that. Bill Waters is the best tracker. He's part Comanche; it is a pure joy to watch him cut for sign. The meanest is Rooster Cogburn; a pitiless man, double tough. Fear don't enter into his thinking. I'd have to say the fairest is L.T. Quinn; he always brings in his prisoners alive. Now, he might let one slip by evry now and then, but...
Mattie Ross: Where would I find this Rooster?
Lucky Ned Pepper: What is your intention Rooster? You think one on four is a dogfall?
Rooster Cogburn: I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which will you have?
Lucky Ned Pepper: I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!
Rooster Cogburn: Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch!
(Note: All were working at the time of going to press)
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