My five favourite modern Westerns

Yes, there are loads of bona-fide classic Westerns out there, with the bulk being from the ’50s and ’60s. That said, there new ones being made all the time. It’s a genre that continues to fascinate us as moviegoers.

And with these new stories, filmmakers are finding new ways to tell them and present them, and make them relevant for a modern audience. Here are some that I like to come back to whenever I can.

Open Range (2003)

Cattle herders Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall run into Michael Gambon’s despicable rancher. He takes a dislike to them coming to town with their cattle and the whole films builds to an almighty showdown. It’s a thoughtful, considered type of story though, with solid performances across the board.

3:10 To Yuma (2007)

Christian Bale and Russell Crowe were both on fine form in this story, one where Bale, an ex-rifleman, becomes the reluctant minder of Crowe’s notories outlaw. His mission: to get him onto the prison train to Yuma, all the while being pursued by his gang who are trying to free him.

The Assassination of Jessie James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

With cinematography from the great Roger Deakins and masterful performances from both Casey Affleck as Ford and Brad Pitt as James, this is both a critically acclaimed film and one overlooked by the general public. It’s worth your time, though.

Tombstone (1993)

Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, and a cast that also included Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott as good guys and Powers Boothe, Stephen Lang and Michael Biehn as the bad guys, what’s not to love? There’s even a scene where two characters insult each other in Latin.

Django Unchained (2012)

Originally, Tarantino wanted Will Smith in the lead role, however Jamie Foxx smashes it. It’s also heightened by a powerhouse performance from DiCaprio. Not that you would expect anything less.

Top 10 performances of Bill Paxton

About a year or so ago I saw Bill Paxton in Nightcrawler, a rather excellent film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It got me thinking that Paxton is a funny actor, in that he’s been around a long time (since the start of the ’80s), turns up fairly frequently, often delivering performances which elevate a scene or the entire thing – yet he’s not really got the plaudits he perhaps deserves.

And he’s 60 now (if you can believe it) which, given his body of work, means he’s approaching legend status in my book. Add to that his distinctive Texan drawl that’s perhaps only matched by Matthew McConaughey and you’ve got someone that should really be given more roles. C’mon Hollywood, you can do it.

And on that note, it makes picking ten of his best a tall order (his filmography turns up some gems, ‘Punk Leader’ in The Terminator anyone?) but here are my choices, in random order:

Private Hudson, Aliens (1986)
Morgan Earp, Tombstone (1993)
Simon, True Lies (1994)
John Garrett, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2014)
Bill Harding, Twister (1996)
Master Sergeant Farell, Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Joe Loder, Nightcrawler (2014)
Fred Haise, Apollo 13 (1995)
Jerry Lambert, Predator 2 (1990)
Chet Donnelly, Weird Science (1985)

From his slimy and sleazy used car salesman seducing Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies to his gung-ho soldier immortalising lines like ‘Game over, man!’ and making them gold, Paxton has had a varied and compelling career. And in recent years he’s kept his output high, popping up as the bad guy in season 2 of Marvel’s blossoming Avengers spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the good guy opposite Gyllenhaal’s sociopathic baddie in Nightcrawler. That’s range.

So hurrah for Mr Paxton. Keep on acting, you’re a legend and we love you.

Game over? Never!

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