Review: TRUE GRIT (2010) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review: TRUE GRIT (2010)

RATING: 2.5/5

When the remake of the 1969's TRUE GRIT was first announced, the ideal combination of the Coen brothers (who previously won multiple Oscars for 2007's NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) and Jeff Bridges (who recently won a long-overdue Best Actor Oscar for last year's CRAZY HEART) has immediately spark a wide speculation among critics and insiders that this highly-anticipated western saga is touted for another multiple Oscar glory come next year. Unfortunately, this remake of TRUE GRIT is surprisingly a major disappointment -- a supposedly good old-fashioned Western genre that tries too hard to impress but ends up as a half-baked result instead.

When her father is robbed and gunned down by a notorious outlaw named Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) immediately arrives at Fort Smith, Arkansas to avenge the death of her father. She seeks the grizzled and trigger-happy U.S. marshal Rueben J. "Rooster" Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and pays him considerable amount of money to help her locate Chaney at all cost. Cogburn agrees for the deal, but in the condition that she is not allowed to follow at all. However, the stubborn-looking Mattie insists on joining the manhunt in which she ends up purchasing a horse and manages to join Cogburn and a Texas ranger named LaBeouf (Matt Damon) along the way. As they set their rocky journey across the Choctaw Nation to pursue their target, Cogburn and Mattie are gradually respecting each other and their unlikely friendship is formed.

Unlike the 1969's Henry Hathaway original version (which won John Wayne his only Oscar), the Coen brothers' TRUE GRIT is more faithful to Charles Portis novel. It's certainly a blessing for those who read the novel before, but at the same time, it's also a mistake for being too faithful. The biggest problem of adapting a long-winded novel into big screen that the entire movie is tend to be too verbose, and the Coen brothers doesn't seem bother to streamline the heavy-handed context for leaner approach. Not surprisingly, the movie is a tedious slog for most of the parts it feels like eternity. It doesn't help either when a movie with a supposedly straightforward premise about revenge is so slow-burning that you'll wish when is Cogburn and Mattie going to get their intended target in the end. This is not saying that a Western genre have to be more on shoot 'em-up fare but too bad the Coen brothers' adapted screenplay is crammed with too many unnecessary moments needed badly for proper editing. And for those who is hoping exciting gun battle sequence will be sorely disappointed by the lack of action here. Instead the action is as brief as they goes, but when the action comes (particularly the night shootout scene at the rocky hill and the horse-riding, shoot 'em-up finale in the open land), the result is simply spectacular and well-staged.

Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is a great find and she delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the headstrong Mattie Ross. She is certainly an excellent actress destined for better future, and in fact she's the main anchor that drives the movie's biggest strength. However, Jeff Bridges is surprisingly a major letdown, considering the amount of hype have been given to him. His grizzled turn of Rooster Cogburn is admirable and frankly, isn't all that surprising. He is certainly born to play this kind of role, but any chance of him to score a second Oscar (which some of the critics have predicted) is sadly many miles away. Here, he grunts and growls too much that his throaty voice and excessive mumbling are so difficult to hear what he is trying to say all the time. In the meantime, the rest of the supporting actors including Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, are largely forgettable.

After a misguided detour in last year's A SERIOUS MAN, it seems almost certain that the Coen brothers are making a distinctive comeback. Too bad all the hype that surrounded this movie is merely smokes-and-mirrors.

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