“TRUE GRIT”

0
45
Jeff Bridges dons the eye patch as federal lawman Rooster Cogburn in the Coen Brothers’ remake of the classic 1969 John Wayne western, “True Grit”.
.
Cogburn is in a bit of trouble when we first meet him, testifying at a trial about a couple of bad guys he recently gunned down. Following his testimony — delivered in his customary laconic, laid-back style — he is approached by a young lady, fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross, who offers him a deal: she will pay him if he’ll help her find the varmint, long on the lam, who murdered her dad.  He’s reluctant at first, but she is as mulishly stubborn as he is (and just as unwilling to back down), and so before you can say, “Saddle up!” off they go across plain and prairie in pursuit of her father’s killer.
.
This is a road movie, a buddy movie (featuring, as most buddy movies do, the unlikeliest of travel companions), and a western, all rolled into one.  As they ride across the wide open spaces Mattie comes to realize that Cogburn is every bit as tough as she had been told he was (and is, indeed, filled with that “true grit” she had heard so much about), and Cogburn learns that despite her age, wholesomely pretty face, and youthful innocence, Mattie is a force to be reckoned with… and then some.
.
Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn is big and boozy, with a craggy, weather-beaten kisser and a gruff demeanor, and though he may have too much to drink now and then — that ain’t Kool-Aid he’s carrying around in his saddlebag — you get the feeling (most of the time, anyway) that under the circumstances, he’s the right man for the job.
.
It’s not only his movie, though.  It’s also the girl’s — and as Mattie, newcomer Hailee Steinfeld is excellent.  It would have been easy for her to lose herself in her scenes with a cagey old pro like Bridges, to allow him to dwarf her — physically and otherwise — but that never happens.  From the moment they meet, she more than holds her own (to her credit, she stands out in her scenes with all her older male co-stars), and proves to be as compulsively watchable as he is.
.
Matt Damon as the square-jawed and square-headed Texas Ranger LaBoeuf — who, despite his misgivings, helps them along the way — is first-rate, and (though grossly underused) Josh Brolin as the fugitive, Tom Chaney, and Barry Pepper as the leader of the gang he hooks up with, Lucky Ned Pepper, do fine work, too.
.
The pace is a tad slow — the script just sort of creeps along, much like Cogburn and Mattie as they amble about, from sunup to sundown, on their horses — but this is a character study, not an action flick (despite all the guns), and it works best if you DON’T expect a shoot-’em-up every five minutes.  (Truth is, there are very few gunfights, and the tension isn’t really racheted up till the last half-hour or so, when the stakes are raised and everything seems to hit the proverbial fan all at once.)
.
If you like quirky dialogue and great cinematography — and if you think you might get a kick out of watching a reliable old pro like Bridges share screen time with a talented up-and-comer like Steinfeld — the liesurely pace might not bother you, at all.
.
“True Grit” isn’t a work of true genius, but I’ll bet that somewhere, the original Rooster Cogburn — John Wayne himself — is looking down, eye patch and all, and smiling.
.
FILM REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien
.