Tue, 01 Feb 2011 - 3:44 PM CST
I hear you want a movie with true grit - one with strong characters, a unique directing style, and a story you can sink your teeth into. Leave it to the CoenBrothers to deliver the goods. Their retelling of the John Wayne classic Western "True Grit" may not sit perfectly in the saddle with fans of the original, but it is sure to grab a whole different audience that will find it highly entertaining.
Fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is seeking the man who shot her father in cold blood. She elicits the help of the legendary, though unstable, Marshal Reuben J. Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) to help her hunt Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) down and bring him to justice. Also in pursuit of the same man is Texas Ranger La Boeuf (Matt Damon), who has been tracking Chaney for some time. Cogburn and La Boeuf have to get over their differences and deal with this young pistol of a girl all before the trail grows cold.
I love what the Coen's did with this film. They take a classic western style and add in fast-paced, smart dialogue that is, at times, Shakespearian in its rhythm and delivery. They create characters that are multi dimensional and too grandiose to exist in real life. It is this sort of creation that makes their films and characters instantly quotable, recognizable and memorable. "True Grit" is radiating with that Coen signature that will appeal to many, even the few that walk away disjointed.
It would be amiss not to mention the performance of newcomer (literally her first feature film) Steinfield. Hailee takes the script and wields it like a veteran of the arts. She doesn't shy away from the dialogue or from getting in the face of her two co stars. She is dynamic and shows as much grit, if not more so, than Bridges. The only fault I have with her is that she is a beautiful girl, and while they tried to make her homely with that prairie ruggedness, she still has too much softness (especially when compared to Kim Darby, who played the role in the original). The line in the movie, "Looks like you were beat with an ugly stick" seems out of place when describing Hailee.
Bridges does well with the look and feel of Cogburn, yet the decision to have him deliver each and every line as if he has a mouth full of gravel makes for a tiresome experience. You have to force yourself to diligently focus on each word, and still many fall away undecipherable. Damon is a good fit as the Texas Ranger, and his dry wit and timing adds some welcome flavor.
"True Grit" is rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of western violence, including disturbing images. Obviously there are some hangings and gun fire, typical old west shenanigans. Other than that, this has little to offend or shock the typical movie goer. The language is very mild, and even if it wasn't, I doubt you could understand it from Bridges. Even with that distracting element, I still give it 4.5 out of 5 camp fires. The Coen Brothers are back in true form, and even the most die-hard westerner will appreciate the liberties they take to tell their tale.