Tombstone (1993) – George P. Cosmatos

Kurt Russell leads a star studded cast that completely wows in this retelling of the Wyatt Earp story. Joining the always superb Russell is Bil Paxton, Sam Elliott, Val Kilmer, Dana Delaney, Michael Biehn, Powers Boothe, Jason Priestley, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Billy Bob Thornton, Micheal Rooker, John Corbett, Joanna Pacula, Terry O’Quinn, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and Charlton Heston.

It looks great, feartures a fantastic script, features an arguably career best performance from Kilmer as Doc Holliday, and without sounding like a tool, was directed by the same guy who did Rambo: First Blood Part II, Leviathan, and Cobra. Sure First Blood Part II is awesome, but nowhere near the scope of a retelling of the Earp story, nor the amazing cast.

Sure, Cosmatos was brought in to replace the film’s initial director, Kevin Jarre, who also penned the script, who, according to the studio, filmed too slowly. And Cosmatos was up to the task. This one is incredible to watch, and oft-times, I feel, seems to get forgotten along the way.

In fact, it had been a couple of decades since I last watched this one, and I was stunned by all the names in it, and how fantastic a film it actually is.

Russell plays Wyatt Earp with Elliott, and Paxton playing his brothers Virgil and Morgan. The Earps, with wives in tow, arrive in Tombstone, a town going through a boom, leaving their law enforcement days behind them. Unfortunately, as in most western films, and occasionally in life, things can’t be left alone.

It seems Curly Bill (Boothe) leads the dangerous, red sash wearing, Cowboys, with the incredibly vicious Johnny Ringo (Biehn) as his right hand man. They have an ‘agreement’ with the town, and it’s county sheriff, not the local one, and soon blood is spilled in the streets, and the Earps are pushed to fight back, on the side of law, but with a powerful thirst for vengeance.

Halfway through the film we are treated to a reenactment of the O.K. Corral, which is where most people’s knowledge of Earp ends. But the film explores the fallout of the event, and how it all led to final confrontations, losses, and leaving the badge behind once and for all.

It’s reapidly paced, fantastically shot, and the performances are all top-notch. The thing that will stay with me always (possibly because it was on so many loop tapes that played in video stores I worked in) is the use of the drum solo in Rhythm of the Heat by Peter Gabriel in the trailer, and it just WORKED!

Every now and then when Westerns have a resurgence, it’s always interesting to see the names that are drawn to them, and how the genre will be interpreted. Tombstone stands very well alongside some of the giants in the genre, and man, that cast!

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