Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on July 27, 2011 @

"Hot damn!"

One of the characters says this in Cowboys & Aliens, and he's right -- hot damn right.

Cowboys & Aliens is a sizzling conflagration. It's Hellzapoppin' in the West. It's How the West was Weird.

It's a collision of genres that leaves a mess, but what a mess! It's a smash-up between the outer spaces of the west and the outer space of the cosmos.

Cowboys & Aliens shouldn't work, but it does. It's rollicking fun.

Amidst all the fiery chaos is the ultra-cool but rugged Daniel Craig. His character first appears alone in the desert -- reeking with the alienation of the mythic western hero.

He is wounded and has a mysterious, bulky bracelet on his wrist. He can't remember who he is or where he's been. But he's got skills as he quickly shows when grungy riders appear and threaten him.

He winds up in a town trying to find his identity. He has to subdue the punk son (Royal Dano) of a powerful rancher (Harrison Ford). With his hands, the rancher comes to town breathing fire.

But all the mortal conflict ends when the townspeople, ranch hands, outlaws, and Indians have to unite to face the onslaught of "demons" from outer space.

The monsters love gold, and the human race faces oblivion.

The script is credited to a wild bunch of writers (6?), but for once too many cooks don't spoil the tangy stew. They write such lines as, "machines took our kin." But it doesn't matter.

The plot is ridiculous, but because the actors are credible, Cowboys & Aliens makes the outrageous almost rational.

Harrison Ford's glare and occasional crooked smile and Craig's withering stare steal the gold. And Olivia Wilde -- as the enigmatic Ella with her strange beauty -- is a nice bonus. It's a royal competition to see which of the three leads has the best blue eyes.

Keith Carradine, Sam Rockwell, Adam Beach, irrepressible Walton Goggins. et al. add to the chemistry.

One can imagine the two major male leads being played by Clint Eastwood and John Wayne; they're played by a steely Craig and a growling Ford.

If he wasn't already, Daniel Craig becomes a full-fledged superstar in Cowboys & Aliens.

Remember the resistance that met his casting as James Bond? He had played a coke dealer in Layer Cake (2004), the killer Perry Smith in Infamous (2006) and the evil son in Road to Perdition (2002), but did he have the chops to star?

It may have been difficult for some to see Craig morphing into a superstar, but he's now making his third Bond film, as well as being the male lead in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, due this winter. And he makes a hell of a cowboy.

Director Jon Favreau emphasizes close-ups to great effect. And he keeps the action blazing. He is a bit repetitive with his assaults, but who isn't? Favreau knows how to entertain.

Cowboys & Aliens returns "wild" to the Wild West.

Hot damn. That's fun.

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