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Review: True Grit

Why remake a western starring one of its genre's most legendary icons? Why take an unknown as the lead? Why cast a man most widely known for playing a stoner as Marhal Rooster Cogburn? Why the hell not?

This may come as blasphemy, but it needs to be said: John Wayne may have won his Oscar for True Grit but his take on the role is nothing close to what the novel sought. Current Marshal Cogburn was once a Confederate soldier who participated in the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas. The Duke had too much of a clean-cut image to live up to to take on the more despicable qualities of his character, so Bridges has enough room to make the character his own. Bridges's Cogburn is a man that an orphaned girl (Hailee Steinfeld) can turn to for true grit.

She hires the Marshall to take vengeance against the man who killed her father and insists on riding shotgun because she can't trust him to go it alone. Along for the ride is Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon, sporting a glorious mustache) who has his own reasons for wanting Chaney, but he provides many zingers while the trio treks through Indian territory. Young Mattie is the only character who mildly resembles common sense between the drunkard, the over-inflated Texas Ranger and the grotesque Tom Chaney (poor, poor Josh Brolin).

Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is truly a lead actress and the little attention that has been brought to her performance seems like a slight. In a cast filled with A-list caliber acting, she sets the sole focus of the story about Mattie's drive for vengeance in a world seemingly short of people willing to find it with her.

Those looking for it can find a spiritual link between this film, No Country for Old Men, and A Serious Man, each film, at some point, elaborates that evil can be fought in this world, but it rarely comes without larger consequences.

The plot largely remains the same of the original. While it is shot just as beautifully as No Country for Old Men, this film is not as menacing. The Coens cut back on some of the dark nihilism that the brothers have trademarked in over the years. Don't fret though, the ironic comedy is still around in spades (the first we hear of Marshall Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn is in an outhouse). Somewhere I can hear Joel and Ethan laughing.

***1/2 out of ****

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