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Tombstone (1993 - R)
TOMBSTONE is the classic tale, slightly fictionalized of course, of legendary lawmen Wyatt Earp and his gun swinging gambling buddy; the notorious gentleman Doc Holiday. Together Wyatt, Holiday, and Earp's two brothers, Morgan and Virgil, will wine, dine, gamble, and mine their way into the likes of the recent boomtown Tombstone. But when organized crime infiltrates the city in the name of 'Cowboys', it seems the once retired Earp will once more heed his moral obligation to restore justice and order to the growing town of Tombstone with the help of his brothers, and Holiday. But of course there will have to be some notorious showdowns, verbal banter, saloon scenes, and a lot of wily Cowboys first!
Written by: Kevin Jarre.
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos.
Genre: Western, Action, Comedy, Drama. / Rated: R (director's cut) for violence.
Set in 1879 upon the commencement of the Great Civil War, the film depicts a time when economic and westward expansion saw the creation of multiple towns that scattered across Western trails. Tombstone has become the latest boomtown which has attracted the likes of the legendary Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell); a former Kansas lawmen retiring his badge and heading west to find a piece of land, and peace of mind. Joining him in his Western adventures is his two brothers Virgil and Morgan Earp, and his friend Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer); a notorious gunmen and gentleman who is hoping the dry Arizona weather will fare well for his tuberculosis.
But out of all the commotion of new towns, new riches, and new hopes come riding the first organized system of crime, the Cowboys; identifiable by the red sashes around their waistline. The film commences with the wily bandits wreaking havoc on a small Arizonan pueblo just outside of Tombstone where the surprise visit of Curly Bill (Powers Boothe) and his gang means anything but a bright day for the newly married couple who tragically crosses their paths. Taking the initiative to make himself an authority, Curly Bill begins to ride from town to town wreaking havoc in the name of 'righteous power'.
With silver mining in full sway in Tombstone, it's only a matter of time before Curly and his men try to take over the lucrative boomtown. Soon enough however, Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell), his two brothers Morgan (Bill Paxton) and Virgil Earp (Sam Elliot), and their look-alike wives stroll into Tombstone, all the while Wyatt will eagerly turn down the many offered propositions to reassume a legal position with the new homesteads.
But just as soon as he enters Tombstone Wyatt will feel the need to make wrong right at the notorious Oriental; a slaughterhouse for gamblers after a local tyrant, Johnny (Billy Bob Thornton), usurped the house spot awhile back. Immediately ousting the buffoon from his spot, the vengeful coward is about to seek retribution when Wyatt's lifelong friend, Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer), saves the day and ends the nemesis's tirades for good. With a new job at the Oriental the Earps set about trying to make money off of cards and silver while their ladies tend to feminine things; meanwhile Wyatt's wife, Mattie (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson), seems to have taken to the bottle; laudanum, a bit too hard.
To sway his attention from his wife's despairing ways to more pleasant matters, however, is a beauty by the name of Josephine Marcus (Dana Delany) who enters Tombstone with an acting troupe, stirring up trouble for the moral Wyatt's lifestyle in the process. A grand theatrical spectacle and one confrontation with the Cowboys later that night and suddenly its the good vs. the bad prepared to duel it out for total power over the boomtown while Tombstone's newest starlet stands anxiously by, in the arms of her new beau; Cochise County Sheriff, John Behan (John Tenney).
While Ringo (Michael Beihn) and Doc go about their verbal banter, Wyatt insistently tries to defuse the situation, much to his moral-imbibed brothers' dismay; Behan of course stands idly by, shining his badge and preserving his 'title'. Though Earp and his gang promise not to interfere with the Cowboys raucous looting and tyrannical hold over Tombstone, after Curly Bill kills the local Marshall, Virgil and Morgan begin to feel a moral obligation to pick up their old lifestyles and start acting as rookie Tombstone peace officers. Neglectfully Wyatt leaves his depressed, alcoholic wife to her bed, to join his brothers and Holiday in their dangerous resistance of the Cowboy's infiltration. Meanwhile Josephine is still trying at Earp's heart, much to her new beau's displeasure.
Jealous, and power hungry, but too chicken to maintain his title, County Sheriff Behan prepares to strike a deal with the local desperados so as to secure his total dominance over Tombstone; sidestepping and undermining the moral Earp and Holiday law enforcement. Though local townsmen have begun to take a liking and respect for the legendary "Wyatt Earp and Co."; Wyatt's reputation beneficially preceding him, Curly Bill, Johnny Ringo, and the rest of the Cowboys prepare to either drive the quartet out of town or lay them down for good next to their fallen bandits. A stormy night perfectly sets the scene for the good guys to blindly fend off the unanticipated attack of the evil Cowboy; Virgil and Morgan falling down, Morgan fatally, in the midst of an evil mayhem they can neither see, nor hear.
Several days later more deaths follow, including Josephine's beloved friend (Billy Zane). Meanwhile Doc Holiday is doing his best to stave off death that steadily encroaches with the ever increasing severity of his tuberculosis. Temporarily sidelined from the action, Doc puts up in a local saloon hotel, against his will, while Wyatt and Virgil do their best to restore order. Meanwhile Josephine and the remainder of her acting troupe have left Tombstone to reside in a small haven just outside of the chaos.
As a confused Wyatt Earp is given the ultimatum to fight Ringo and Curly Bill, he seeks advice from his flashy gun-fighting friend Doc Holliday. A sick Holliday beseeches Wyatt to fulfill his moral obligation and then ride off into the sunset with his true love, the beautiful Josephine. Now its up to a conflicted Earp to deliberate over the fate of his life and the future security of Arizona's most promising town, Tombstone. A surprise visit from Holliday and the loyal support of his brother Virgil will help in confirming Earp's decision as the legendary lawmen prepares to once and for all rectify the wrongs of his personal and social life; all the while affecting the fate of Tombstone and its inhabitants.
"Tombstone" is a classic Western. But more than your typical gun slinging, bandit catching' films of old, this modern retelling of the legendary lives of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday incorporates a whole new genre into Western: comedy.
Val Kilmer shines in his performance as Doc Holliday. Bloodshot eyes, porcelain skin, bleeding mouth and all, Kilmer is definitely credited with the best dialogue of the film as one hilarious punch line to the next rolls off his tongue. You're bound to quote his famous lines such as "I'm your Huckleberry", or "Why whatever do you mean?", or the classic line, "I have two guns, one for each of you", long after the film commences.
The role of the famous Wyatt Earp was perfect for Kurt Russell who contained just the right balance of good looks, scruffy/hardened exterior, and pensive contemplation that, together, contrived the look of a well weathered, albeit young at heart, moral hero. Bill Paxton does a solid job as Morgan Earp and Sam Elliot could not have been better cast for his character of the older brother Virgil (it's the exact same role as the aged and wise narrator of "The Big Lebowski"; a perfect fit for the novel actor). Other A-list celebs grace the film in either cameo or small role performances from Jason Priestley and Billy Bob Thornton to Charlton Heston and Billy Zane and the film sparkles with the exuberance and juxtaposition of the multitude of personalities brought to the screen.
Some of the most enjoyable scenes by far are those that commence in the saloon, or center on Kilmer's dialogue. As always, poker, liquor, and women will be involved; along with a few witty banters and flashy showdowns between good guy and bad guy: one can never forget Kilmer's famous 'cup acrobatics' that comically undermines the all-too-serious and overly proud Johnny Ringo's (Michael Beihn) showy gun tricks. Though Kilmer definitely steals the show as Doc Holliday, all the same the film offers plenty of enjoyable performances from a well-rounded cast that shine in their deadpan delivery of hilarious one-liners and classic Western euphemisms.
The art direction, cinematography, and sound track are all solid, coherent, and well done. However there is nothing spectacular here; the film is left to shine in its delivery of the script and its resonance of a true feel of being immersed in a Western boomtown. Authenticity is recreated in the classic costumes; by far the most intriguing are the nefarious Cowboys' getups, and the stage sets. Otherwise, the film is without special effects and dazzling grand spectacles; however, those more modern components of contemporary Blockbusters would seem both contrived and out of place in this 'recreated Western' that seems to be attempting to stay true to its replication of the old black-and-white Classics that told the first stories of Earp and the gang.
This hilarious gut-busting, gun-slinging, entertaining comedic/drama Western was the recipient of 2 MTV Movie Awards for Best Male Performance (Val Kilmer) and Most Desirable Male (Val Kilmer). That said, the film seems, all in all, deserving of much more critical recognition, particularly a nomination, at least, for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Val Kilmer; his performance is easily one of if not the best of supporting parts for the year's major motion pictures. All the same, I have yet to find a single movie patron who is yet to be untouched or wanting upon viewing this all too entertaining film.
Kurt Russell plays Wyatt Earp, the legendary lawmen from Kansas who will once again put on his badge to restore order to the boomtown Tombstone.
Val Kilmer plays Doc Holliday, the famous Southern gentleman/gunmen/gambler who travels to Tombstone in hopes the dry weather will aid his chronic Tuberculosis.
Sam Elliot plays Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp's older, responsible brother.
Bill Paxton plays Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp's younger, exuberant brother.
Powers Boothe plays Curly Bill Brocious, leader of the nefarious Cowboy gang.
Michael Beihn plays Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill's right-hand man.
Dana Delany plays Josephine Marcus, the bewitching beauty who steals Wyatt Earp's heart.
Dana Wheeler-Nicholson plays Mattie Earp, Wyatt's alcoholic first wife.
John Tenney plays John Behan, Cochise County Sheriff, tax collector, Captain of the fire-brigade, and many other useless titles on behalf of the town of Tombstone.