"You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God."You've got to hand it to the writing/directing duo Joel and Ethan Coen. They've practically branded their own film comedies and have managed to Coen-ize every genre of film--from crime dramas to slapstick--with glowing results. Last year, they blessed the 1969 western True Grit.
Originally starring John Wayne Kim Darby, and Glen Campbell, True Grit follows a spunky fourteen-year-old girl who's determined to avenge the murder of her slain father. She hires a drunken quick-draw U.S. marshal and a flashy Texas ranger to help her track down his killer in a wild goose chase across old Indian territory.
In the new version, Jeff Bridges steps into the role of the marshal (formerly played by Wayne) and Matt Damon stars as the ranger (Campbell's role) in a somewhat slicker remake of the original. But the writing is smoother only in the dialogue, which goes through some rough patches where it is next to inaudible (mostly due to Bridges's heavily slurred delivery). The better parts, though they're not consistent, are riddled with Coens-like/spaghetti western-like language halfway recycled from the modern files of the O.K. Corral. But those parts were few and far between.
Relying mostly on the dramatic story narrated by young Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld, in an Oscar-nominated role), True Grit lacks the action you'd find in such modern classics as Wyatt Earp and replaces it with extremely heavy dialogue. The movie drags at points and veers off yonder for a bit when you really just want it to hurry up and get somewhere. Perhaps due to his incoherent delivery. Bridges's performance solely lacked the depth of that of Damon's and Steinfeld's. But his lines that you could understand were quite flowery. Josh Brolin, who played the killer Tom Chaney even underplayed his role. And Barry Pepper's teeny part didn't show his potential either.
The movie really belongs to Steinfeld, who truly connected with her role, making her the valiant hero in the middle of two Elmer Fudd-like characters. Commendable, but not exactly Oscar-worthy, Steinfeld really carried the movie along probably with fourteen-year-old audiences cheering her along the whole way.
Disappointing overall, though entertaining at times, True Grit isn't exactly the Coen brothers best movie but they get an A for effort.