In a mighty fine remake of the classic western, Christian Bale grits it out as struggling rancher Dan Evans, hired to ensure that Russell Crowe's captured outlaw Ben Wade makes the train that will take him to jail. But Wade and his gang didn't pull off twenty-some successful robberies without leaving a few corpses behind... Walk The Line director James Mangold takes the reins with an assured hand, ratcheting up the tension while keeping the action moving at a gallop.
Man's country. That's where Russell Crowe belongs. Jungles. The high seas. Gladiator arenas. Boxing rings... Not poncing around Provence pretending to be Hugh Grant in namby-pamby guff like A Good Year.
Happily, James Mangold's rousing trailblazer puts him back where the huntin', shootin' and killin' is at.
A reworking of Delmer Daves' 1957 classic (itself based on a novel by Elmore Leonard), it finds Christian Bale taking Van Heflin's place as Dan Evans, a rancher with a wife (Gretchen Mol), two sons, a major drought problem... and one foot.
Crowe, meanwhile, eases into Glenn Ford's boots as wily gang leader Ben Wade, the scourge of every stagecoach from Wichita to Wyoming.
If you've never seen a horse explode, your chance comes when Wade's crew ambushes a money wagon, leaving only old shotgun Peter Fonda alive. Dan and his sons witness the aftermath, but Wade - being a reasonable fella - lets them go.
Their paths cross again when Wade is captured after celebrating with a local saloon girl. Having booked his place in Yuma prison, Wade needs to be taken to the rail town of Contention, two days' ride away. Offered $200 to join the escort party, desperate Dan takes the job.
Naturally, the wife disapproves and his eldest boy William (Logan Lerman) refuses to be left behind. But with Wade's gang on their tail, it don't take an accountant to work out that not everyone is going to make it into Contention.
Along the way it also becomes apparent that Dan and Wade are not so much chalk and cheese as granite and gritstone.
Wade's blood may be cold but it's refined. Introduced sketching a wild falcon (quick on the draw?), his intellect and slippery wit set him apart from the common cutthroat... and rapidly get under the skin of his captors.
Conversely, Dan's past is less glorious than he'd have his family believe. Sure, he lost that foot in the civil war, but his halo ain't as shiny as you might think.
As good as Crowe and Bale are - and that's darned good - Ben Foster makes the biggest impact as Wade's beady-eyed henchman Charlie Prince.
He may have been X-Men 3's Angel but, like his characters in Hostage and Alpha Dog, there is nothing angelic about Charlie. That said, he shoots down all those myths about loyalty and honour among thieves.
It's this shattering of preconceptions that makes Mangold's film so intriguing. It could even be argued that it's all taken a whisker too far in the climax. Heads will be scratched.
But by saddling the western traditions of clock-watching (High Noon), one-sided sieges (Rio Bravo) and good old gunfights to a rip-roaring action adventure, 3:10 to Yuma builds up a full head of steam and sustains it.
...It also proves that train timetables were as reliable back then as they are now.