Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tombstone (1993)

I've been meaning to see this for a while, but after learning that Michael Biehn had a role in it I bumped it up the ol' Netflix queue. Based on the legendary events encircling ex-lawman Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and his persistently drunk, tuberculosis-stricken friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer), Tombstone is a fun, if overlong, western with an impressive cast. Earp, his brothers Virgil (Sam Elliott) and Morgan (Bill Paxton), and their wives move to the town of Tombstone to make their fortune, taking advantage of its multiple saloons. They find themselves up against the aggressive outlaw "Cowboys" who run the town, led by Curly Bill (Powers Boothe). They intentionally stir up trouble for the Earps and end up killing the town marshal, forcing the brothers to take his place as the main police force. With Doc Holliday's help, they stage several ultimate showdowns against the gang. Also Wyatt Earp has problems with his opium-addict wife and maybe will fall in love with a free-spirited actress (Dana Delaney) who shows up for three scenes.

This movie should really be called "Tombstone: Unconvincing Mustache Central" because that's totally what it actually is. I couldn't tell anyone apart because everyone in this movie is a gruff white guy with a huge unrealistic mustache. It's pretty silly and a little distracting, but that's ok. Val Kilmer probably had the best one, but Sam Elliott's was the most believable. Kurt Russell's looked like it almost fell off by the end of it. And then even the ladies were hard to differentiate- all of the wives were skinny blondes in pretty dresses, and I don't think any of them were given names.

Tombstone is stylish and fun, with some great characters and a layered story. Unfortunately the development of those characters is practically nonexistent. I almost felt like it was a sequel, with relationships and personalities that had been explored in an earlier entry. I haven't seen any of the other movies based on the showdown at the OK Corral or Earp's life or anything, so maybe I'm just a little behind on the established lore of these events. And that half-assed romance was just annoying- the filmmakers clearly didn't care much about their relationship, so why should I? It just added 20 unneeded minutes to an already long movie.

Ok so it seems I have a few negative things to say about it, but really overall I liked Tombstone. It's got lots of shooting and guns and super neat costumes! I loved most of the cast- especially Sam Elliott (who I think should have been the star) and Val Kilmer (who needed more screen time). Michael Biehn, sadly, was not around much, and when he was, he looked like this and I had trouble taking him seriously. Nice moves, though. Also I developed a theory that Kilmer's and Biehn's characters were secretly twins. Think about it: One good, one evil, both mustachioed. There's the real story, and it makes their final showdown that much more dramatic.

Tombstone is abundant in sheer cool, so it gets a pass on most of its flaws. Now I really want a cool western name- maybe I can be like Doctor Vacation or something. Or The something Kid. Hmm.



  1. Terry O'Quinn was the bomb in this - WAY better than his work on Lost.