Dir. by Jon Favreau - 1 hr. 58 min.
by Clayton Hollifield
I'm going to level with you here. I did not have very high hopes for this movie going in. Everything from the title (there have already been a couple of other comic books with genre mash-up titles recently) on down didn't inspire much confidence in me. There was no part of me that was interested in seeing this in a theatre for $10 (thank goodness for second-run theatres). And I'm not going to look you in the eye and say this was a good movie, exactly. But when your expectations are that a movie could be close to terrible, and then it doesn't end up being terrible, that adds up to a win.
The plot is perfunctory. Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) wakes up in a field, bleeding, amnesiac, and with a curious metal bracelet on his arm. A trio of unfortunates decide to try to take him in for a bounty, and get dealt with quickly and completely. Lonergan pillages the bodies, and takes a horse (and a dog comes along, as well) to the nearest town. He immediately gets in a confrontation with Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano), the son of the wealthiest man in town, Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). Percy and Jake end up in jail for different reasons, and as they're about to be sent off to Santa Fe to deal with the feds, Woodrow and his posse roll into town to spring Percy. And then, aliens.
There are more plot points, sort of, but this isn't the sort of movie that the plot matters. A more accurate description is that Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford swagger around like bad-asses, lots of things blow up, and Olivia Wilde provides the eye-candy (of a sort - I don't want to imply that she's running around naked or anything, other than that one scene. She's a welcome ray of beauty in a movie overflowing with hideous aliens and scowling men). And Sam Rockwell provides the comic relief. Then, more things blow up.
If that doesn't sound particularly challenging, know that it isn't. And without the star-power that Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig bring, this movie could have very easily fallen flat. After the "Iron Man" movies, it's no surprise that director Jon Favreau knows how to handle an action movie, and a certain amount of the action seems to be torn from the "Iron Man" playbook: particularly the flying scenes over sweeping vistas. It works. The movie does work, despite not really having much to work with. It hits the plot points it needs to, and uses archetypes effectively in lieu of actual character development. And, to Favreau's credit, the film has the balls to show these aliens in broad daylight instead of just having them lurking in shadows and cloaked in darkness.
That all adds up to a big, loud, dumb movie that is just good enough, but "Cowboys & Aliens" doesn't do anything that would make it essential viewing or that would make it better than a genre exercise. Still, that's a lot more that I figured I'd be able to give it credit for. I found it enjoyable, but your enjoyment depends on a lot of things. But if you watch the trailer and think, yeah, that's a movie for me (or the opposite), you're likely going to be right. There are no surprises in sight.
2.5 / 5 - Theatre