3:10 to Yuma

Period westerns are so unfashionable and costly that they usually require a top-drawer script to get off the ground—and this one, adapted from an Elmore Leonard story and its 1957 movie version, travels with an arrow's clean arc. Christian Bale is a one-legged Civil War veteran who can't keep his ranch and young family solvent; Russell Crowe is the notorious bad man who steals his cattle (and most of their scenes together). When Crowe is captured, Bale signs on to help deliver him through Santa Fe's striking Diablo Canyon to the prison train of the title, where the poor rancher will collect a $200 reward. Like last year's Seraphim Falls, this harks back to the 50s westerns of Budd Boetticher and Anthony Mann, with their elemental journeys and damaged men. But in Leonard's stories, money is always a big character, and director James Mangold (Walk the Line) draws good performances from both leads as they wrestle with the predatory power structure of the old west. R, 117 min.

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