True Grit

Now, normally I would consider the combination of the Coen Brothers and Jeff Bridges to be a terrifying one. It's been ten years or so since I've seen The Big Lebowski, but I still cringe at the memory. Actually, for a long time, I cringed every time I heard the word "dude". But even so, I felt pretty safe going to this one, since it was a remake and all. And if the imdb database of quotes is anything to go by, not much of it has changed.

Instead of John Wayne as Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn, we have Jeff Bridges. (I feel like I've reviewed Jeff Bridges three times in two weeks, since he was sort of in TRON twice.) Josh Brolin takes over from Jeff Corey to play the sniveling, dastardly, Tom Chaney, who's almost more of a plot point than a character; and Glen Campbell's character, Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (here pronounced LaBeef), is played by Matt Damon. His hair looks funny, but he's still Matt Damon, which is another reason why I figured this Coen Brothers movie would be okay.

The sniveling, dastardly Tom Chaney -- who seems to think the entire Wild West is out to get him -- killed a man just before the movie started. His victim was one Frank Ross, who left behind a wife and three children. The wife and two of the children are invisible, so don't worry about them. But the eldest child is a girl named Mattie (Hailee Steinfeld, who, bizarrely, is actually the age she's pretending to be -- in 1969, when she was Kim Darby, she was really 22). Mattie is so visible and talkative that you might get sick of her. She's fourteen going on forty -- basically a mean, crotchety old cat lady just waiting to happen -- and she talks like she swallowed a thesaurus. Actually, a lot of the characters do, but her especially. She uses words like braggadocio and would never stoop to asking, "When can we leave?" No, for her it has to be, "How long before you will be ready to depart?"

Mattie badgers a local businessman until he gives her money to leave him alone, and then she's off to pester Rooster Cogburn. She's asked the local sheriff, and he's told her that Rooster is the meanest U.S. Marshal around, so that's the U.S. Marshal she wants to find her father's killer. Of course, the sheriff neglected to add that he was also a one-eyed alcoholic who may or may not be a terrible shot, but he's still the Marshal she wants because he can't figure out how to prevent her coming along with him on the hunt.

Before they even get underway, LaBoeuf appears to further complicate things. Chaney is also wanted in Texas for shooting a senator and his dog, and LaBoeuf's been tracking him for months for the substantial reward on his head being offered in Texas. I don't know, maybe the entire Wild West really is out to get him.

Anyway, Chaney has found a gang to ride with, under the leadership of one "Lucky" Ned Pepper, played by Barry Pepper. At first I thought the character was named after the actor for some reason, but the character was still named Pepper back in 1969, when it was Robert Duvall playing him, so that can't be it. Who knows, maybe the name thing is why he beat out Michael Biehn for the part.

Then there's lots of shooting, riding, tracking, kicking of random children, more shooting, hanging of various miscreants, and bears riding horses. I'm not sure where that last one came from, either, but clearly, the movie has everything a western should have and then some. So I'll give it four and a half out of five. Jeff Bridges is amusingly drunk through much of it, Matt Damon manages to be heroic and rather silly at the same time, and after a while, even Mattie grew on me, after I spent the first half hour or so of the film wishing I could smack her upside the head just a little. Oh, and Josh Brolin proved he wasn't a jinx for westerns after all, even if he didn't get to do a whole lot here, so that was nice. Basically, go ahead and check this out in the theatre, assuming you haven't already hit your quota of Jeff Bridges for the month.

Rooster and LaBoeuf both look at Mattie like she's crazy, since she kind of is.


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