Who's in It:
Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster, Peter Fonda, Gretchen Mol, Alan Tudyk
The Basics: Crowe is the charming bad man. Bale is the good guy, a uni-legged farmer who's down on his luck and grabs at the chance to be paid to escort Crowe to the train that will take him to trial. Along the way, they bump heads and come to a sort of existentialist showdown. Actually, that may be why very few westerns are made anymore. They're all about being honorable men having moral codes. You never hear people leaving a western say, "Wow, that was lotsa laughs."
What's the Deal? I don't want to sell this as being more think-y than it is, because it's a crowd-pleaser, not an art film. But it's also not stupid. Just the presence of Mr. Serious Christian Bale sort of ensures that. It's a remake that takes the original's premise and opens it up in a way that feels right. It's smart and solid and unflinching, especially about violence. You half expect those doomed guys from Brokeback Mountain to show up, too.
Most Scenes Stolen By: Foster, as Crowe's lunatic, murderous sidekick in some very dirty yet dandy-ish outfits, a man named Prince who'll shoot you if you dare call him "Princess," even though he's pretty clearly in love with Crowe. And Fonda looks to be bucking for some kind of Best Supporting Actor nomination as a really unpleasant bounty hunter.
See Also: The 1957 black-and-white original, which is much more like High Noon than this one. But period piece or not, it was bound to be modernized in some way here, it's through a more scattered approach to the story's personal conflicts. Purists might complain. But they usually do.
Not in the Credits but Onscreen Anyway: Luke Wilson. Not sure why he's just popping in for a visit, but there he is.