Dave White
True Grit Review

Dave's Rating:


The new old-school Western done right.

Who's In It: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Hailee Steinfeld

The Basics: Blunt-spoken, headstrong, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) wants to avenge her father's murder. So she hires grizzled alcoholic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to hunt down the fugitive killer. It's a perfect match because they're both unbending, solitary types, though the relentlessly logical, demanding kid has the edge because she's the one whose brain isn't booze-soaked. Joining them for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon), who winds up the mediating force between the two hardened loners. And off they go into the frozen, unforgiving West to kill a man.

What's The Deal: There's a first time for everything and, finally, now there's a Coen Brothers movie that you can watch alongside your parents without them complaining that it's too weird. The filmmakers have stripped away every inch of human oddity that made their earlier work so easy to spot in a lineup and have created a really traditional Western for people who love them. What's remained from their earlier movies is the comic wit entwined with grim, determined darkness and violence. That's the stuff they'll most likely never abandon and it's what makes this update fully their own and better than the original.

Departures: You're thinking, "Look, I saw No Country for Old Men and all it did was freak me out." And that's a rational response. The Coens are big apologists for random, chaotic unhappiness. But there's a sense of moral order to this movie that will please crowds, no ambivalence about revenge or Old West ethics. There are bad guys and the heroes go after them and that's that.

A Star Is Born: Jeff Bridges makes for a tougher, edgier, more imposing Rooster Cogburn than John Wayne. (That's not a dig at Wayne; it's just that his Academy Award for that film was like Whoopi Goldberg's for Ghost or Al Pacino's for Scent of a Woman: the "We're sorry we forgot to give it to you for that other, earlier, better movie you were in" Oscar.) And Bridges has both the grimy exterior and the gravel-chewing growl to prove it. But it's young Hailee Steinfeld who really stands out. Plucked from a sea of teen actresses, she's got the dark, steely quality needed to make you believe she could boss around a man with a reputation as a merciless, justice-dispensing killer and still get her way.

What Shouldn't Happen, Even If It's As Big A Hit As The Original: A remake of the John Wayne/Katherine Hepburn sequel, Rooster Cogburn and the Lady.


Comments (19)

John - 12-22-2010 12:37 PM
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So excited. So. Incredibly. Excited.

DPJ - 12-22-2010 3:35 PM
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The oringinal is being shown on Turner Classic Movies this month, which I'll watch; then I'll go see this. I loved the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and this seems to have that same appeal.

Paul Donais - 12-22-2010 5:03 PM
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The Dude in the Indian Territory The Dude Abides - but not so much in the Choctaw Nation. It was missing something: they never did establish the nastiness of the Josh Brolin or the Barry Pepper characters before they killed them off. Too much rooster crowing? 'this aggression shall not stand, man!'

Ratkellar - 12-22-2010 11:25 PM
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If it is better than the original, then it deserve far more than 4 stars.

Bumbadawg - 12-24-2010 11:49 PM
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Just saw it. Amazing! In my opinion the 3:10 to Yuma remake was horrible..but this is Bridges at his best. Even Matt Damon as LeBouf had a swagger about him that made his character stand out. All in all I give this film a 5 out of 5 seeing as I enjoyed this as much if not more than the next in line..Appaloosa.

Stewart Granger - 12-25-2010 11:42 AM
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Not everybody has the courage to take on a John Wayne part but Bridges makes it his own. The Cohen Bros have a movie making style, cast selection and originality with few equals in the market place. This movie captures the harshness and reality of both the people and terrain of a period that most modern American's are clueless about.... kudos.

Gerry Johnston - 12-26-2010 12:23 PM
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Totally awesome!! I loved the original, but this is great movie making and better (if you can believe it) than the first.

Matt - 12-26-2010 2:53 PM
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I love how unashamedly faithful to the original this was. They ignored the out-dated cultural taboos that most movies today avoid like: spanking a teenage girl, and shooting a horse (on the silver screen), and using analogies that require thought like "Your unvarnished words". Thank you Coen Brothers for a better-than-the-original remake. Thank you.

Keith - 12-27-2010 9:51 AM
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What a great show! Bridges, Damon, and especially Stanfield were great. The dialogue was smart and funny. I had very high expectations going in, and was not disappointed.

Julie - 12-27-2010 2:34 PM
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I agree with David. This movie was a tremendous let down. I can't believe all the great reviews. All the acting in the original was much better, except for the Matt Damon character. I didn't think the little girl was good at all. And if you are a horse person you could tell in the opening scene she didn't know how to ride. Kim Darby was much better in the part and on a horse and more believable. The ending where she is in the saddle with Jeff Bridges, you can tell they aren't really riding and the riding scene is so fake. Watch the original, the ending is much more exciting and real looking. If you loved the original don't waste your money. Wait for DVD.

Retardo - 12-31-2010 1:22 PM
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Great job all the way around. A "western" that is not in the west, something that shouldn't be overlooked. This was post civil war and Arkansas was still a desolute, renegade place. Interesting.

Mike - 1-02-2011 1:36 PM
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I am Huge John Wayne fan and I saw True Grit last night. It gave me a huge stomach ache. I wanted to like it bu couldn't bite my teeth into movie. Too dark, lines were slurred and story defaced. I am one of a handful that read the novel. I feel movie was rushed and not enough info in all scenes so that the coen bros could do the real ending from book. The original movie was a feel good western with beautiful vistas of American west and great backgrond stories on each character. ALSO DONE IN 2 HOURS. I am sure the Coen Bros will get their acolades and make money here but this fan will stick with original.

Dave White - 1-07-2011 1:43 PM
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this movie was authenticly boring, more of no country for old men is what i want

Jaime - 1-08-2011 1:59 PM
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This movie was great. I can't wait for it to come out on blue ray. Also, it makes me want to play Red Dead Redemption again.

C - 1-23-2011 11:59 AM
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This movie was okay. Not as good as I thought it would be. I don't know where Dave White got 4 stars from. It's more like 2.5 out 5. Average.

Rooster Rugburn - 1-29-2011 1:11 PM
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Great review as always, Dave. I know I'm late to the game here, but I just saw "True Grit" a couple of days ago. I really think Barry Pepper and Josh Brolin both deserve mini-Oscars for their small-but-memorable roles. They prove my old theater teacher right: There are no small parts, only small actors. ***spoiler-ish?*** The last shot was beautiful and haunting, but was almost overpowered (and the movie almost ruined) by Iris Dement's caterwaul of a song.

Dick Whistle - 3-19-2011 7:51 PM
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This film failed on every level. I don't know how the Coen Brothers get away with it, having such limited talent. They don't know how to tell a story, or direct actors. They are so plot-driven in their approach to storytelling, as opposed to character-driven, where the character actually embodies the premise of the story, creates the conflict, and pushes the story forward. They never create believable three-dimensional characters and allow the actors to realize any authentic moments. Compare Bridges' performance in this film to Crazy Heart, and you'll see the difference. The original film, although a studio picture, delivered with true pay offs. Wayne had more vitality in his performance than anybody in the Coen Brothers' version.

Ratkellar - 6-12-2011 12:00 AM
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Having now seen the film, it was great. Matt Damon sucked; couldn't tell what he was trying to do with the role. Might as well have allowed her to meet Rooster once more before killing him off, but I prefer happy endings in movies.

gssxa - 12-08-2012 10:05 AM
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