2010 Running time: 110 Certificate: 15 Rating: 4

Synopsis

The Coen Brothers head back to John Wayne's venerated 1969 Western... and return with a far superior movie. Jeff Bridges takes The Duke's Oscar-winning role of Rooster Cogburn, a taciturn lawman handicapped by the bottle, while Hailee Steinfield is a revelation as the stubborn young woman who hires him to track down her father's murderer. Other riches include Matt Damon's buffoonish Texas Ranger but it's the brothers' consummate understanding of the genre that make this a must-see.

Directors

  • Ethan Coen

  • Joel Coen

Cast

  • Jeff Bridges

  • Hailee Steinfeld

  • Matt Damon

  • Josh Brolin

  • Barry Pepper

Review

The 1969 original was just about one thing...and that one thing was iconic Hollywood commie-basher John Wayne.

The Duke landed his only Oscar for the role of whiskey-slugging US Marshal Rooster Cogburn, an honour you felt was bestowed through a sense of long-suffering duty rather than applauding an acting tour de force.

Forty-odd years on, the Coen Brothers' sublime rebooting of the Western revenge yarn is about two things - good and evil.

Good comes in the shape of Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a psychotically persistent young madam, driven by a Protestant ethic, who seeks vengeance after her father is murdered by dim-bulb farmhand Tom Chaney (Brolin).

Evil takes the form of "Lucky" Ned Pepper (Pepper), a trigger-happy outlaw who Chaney has joined deep in the Arkansas badlands beyond the reach of the law.

Somewhere in between (but erring towards the light) is Cogburn (Bridges), a liquor-swigging bounty hunter who Mattie cajoles (with money made from selling her daddy's horse) into tracking Chaney down.

Adding buffoonish friction is Matt Damon's pompous Texas Ranger, who has long been on the trail of the killer for a murder he committed in the neighbouring Lone Star state.

The first thing that strikes you about the Coen rebrand is the superior quality of the acting - Bridges effortlessly inhabits the role of the "cork-pulling" Cogburn while newcomer Steinfeld is awesomely intimidating as the dogged Mattie.

The action - some of it jarringly violent - is expertly engineered while the narrative steadily unfolds with the precisely measured pace of a veteran gunslinger.

Remakes that outdo the original are as rare as a brimstone preacher in a saloon bar...but this leaves Henry Hathaway's 60s version stone dead.

Tim Evans

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