| Blockbuster filmmaker Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"), joined by Hollywood bigwigs Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Glazer as producers, brings to the big screen this strange concoction loosely based on the obscure 2006 graphic comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.
While it may be a future trivia question, the pairing of Daniel Craig (the current James Bond) and Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) in a genre mash-up turns into a failed cinematic experiment. With five credited screenwriters, it is a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Those hoping for the best elements of "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" and "Independence Day" will be disappointed.
The movie opens in the New Mexico desert shortly after the Civil War. A badly sunburned stranger (Craig) wakes up in the middle of nowhere. He is suffering from temporary amnesia. He notices a metal bracelet clamped to his left wrist and a flesh wound on his right side. Nearby is a tintype photograph of a beautiful woman.
Three men on horseback approach him and try to take advantage of his misfortune. He kills all three in a display of savage, bloody violence. He takes off the corpses a hat, a pair of boots, a gun and holster. He rides one of their horses into the former mining town of Absolution accompanied by a dog.
He gets stitched up by a preacher (Clancy Brown) and gets into an altercation with Percy (Paul Dano), the spoiled son of the local cattle baron, Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford). Quick introductions are made of other townsfolk including the saloonkeeper (Sam Rockwell) and his Mexican wife (Ana de la Reguera); the sheriff (Keith Carradine) and his grandson (Noah Ringer); and the colonel's Indian cowhand and expert tracker (Adam Beach). A mysterious woman named Ella (Olivia Wilde) always seems to be hovering around the fringes.
After locking Percy up for accidentally shooting one of his deputies, the sheriff recognizes the stranger's face on a wanted poster. It turns out he is the outlaw Jake Lonergan with a bounty on his head for a stagecoach robbery.
This whole set-up becomes superfluous when bright lights appear in the night sky. Alien spacecrafts open fire on the town and people get taken up into the air as hostages. Those abducted include Percy, the sheriff and the saloonkeeper's wife.
A posse composed of Jake, Woodrow, Ella, the Indian tracker, the saloonkeeper, the grandkid and the dog is formed. They are joined later by Jake's gang of outlaws and a tribe of Apaches. The rest of the movie revolves around the rescue mission and ridding Earth of the invading aliens.
This preposterous story is a bunch of nonsense and offers little explanation for why the aliens have come to Earth. It becomes more ludicrous and ridiculous as it moseys on from one scene to the next. It becomes drudgery sitting through the corny dialogue and the huge loopholes in the plot. The thinly sketched characters don't provide the audience with an emotional attachment to anyone other than the dog.
The actors seem to be just going through the motions for a paycheck. Craig was chosen for the part because of his distinct likeness to Yul Brynner, who starred in the classic Western epic "The Magnificent Seven." Ford comes across as a crusty old geezer with a gruff demeanor. The attractive Wilde is nice to look at as window dressing. Everyone plays it a bit too seriously with just a few scattered injections of humor.
The movie's strengths include the cinematography, visual effects, makeup and a tremendous Western-themed musical score from composer Harry Gregson-Williams ("Shrek" and "The Chronicles of Narnia"). The scenic vistas come courtesy of the natural beauty surrounding Santa Fe. Contrary to my opinion, this action adventure was a big hit at its Comic-Con world premiere in San Diego.
After a mindless conclusion, I realized that two hours had been wasted on this convoluted mess. This botched opportunity to revive the old-fashioned Western puts this movie at the bottom of the barrel right alongside Will Smith's "Wild Wild West."
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"