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Tombstone (1993)

A movie directed by George P. Cosmatos and Kurt Russell

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A memorable "huckleberry"

  • Sep 26, 2003
Having already seen My Darling Clementine (1946) and The Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) several times, I was curious to observe what director George Pan Cosmatos and his screenwriters would do with essentially the same material in this film. There are significant differences between and among them but suggesting comparisons and contrasts would be unfair to three different films which appeared over a 57-year period.

Now on to Tombstone. Director George Cosmatos worked with a large cast and all of the performances are first-rate. William Fraker's cinematography and Bruce Broughton's musical score are carefully integrated within the narrative and serve it well. My own opinion is that Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday) dominates each scene in which he appears. However, Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp), Dana Delany (Josephine Marcos), Sam Elliot (Virgil Earp), and Powers Boothe (Curly Bill Brocius) hold their own.

As portrayed in the film, Tombstone (Arizona) is a western town in the last stages of being a community dominated by outlaws. The involvement of the Earps coincide with a growing local desire among residents to establish law and order. The eventual showdown at the OK Corral is a key event but by no means the only one. I was especially interested in how Cosmatos and Russell develop Wyatt Earp's character as he struggles to follow his conscience, establish some stability in his own life, and thereby complete a transition from gunfighter to private citizen.

Back to Kilmer for a moment. I do not recall a prior or subsequent film of his in which he reveals the comic timing, nuances of personality, and conflicting anxieties which he does while portraying Holliday in Tombstone. His is a masterful performance, maintaining an exquisite balance between playful humor and force of will. I recalled elements of that performance while recently observing Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. However, the Holliday character is revealed to have much greater depth and complexity than Sparrow's even as both characters demonstrate at every appropriate opportunity a unique flair for mimicry.

I do have a few minor quibbles. First, I think the pace of the plot lags unnecessarily at times. Also, the evolving relationship between Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcos is not always in focus, even when allowing for a period of adjustment as they take each other's measure. Finally, I really don't understand the purpose of the final scene except to offer an alternative to the neat-and-tidy conclusion which so many other films offer. That said, I think that Cosmatos, his cast, and crew have created 135 minutes of generally entertaining, sometimes hilarious, and often thought-provoking material. Perhaps the more ambitious scale (e.g. timeframe and subplots) precludes the dramatic impact of its predecessors, My Darling Clementine and The Gunfight at the OK Corral. In any event, I enjoyed it.

Final point: I wish all other versions offered special features comparable with those provided by the Vista Series DVD. They include a commentary by Cosmatos, the 134 Director's Cut Edition, featurettes ("An Ensemble Cast," "Making An Authentic Western," and "The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral"), an interactive Tombstone storyline, The Tombstone Epitaph - Actual Newspaper Account, and Cosmatos' original storyboards for the O.K. Corral sequence.

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review by . February 12, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
"Tombstone" is a strange creature. It's loaded with more action than you can shake a stick at coupled with some rather long moments. It has some great actors in it coupled with some not-so-hot ones. It has one-liners that make "I'll be back" seem forgettable coupled with some hokey proclamations that come across as just silly. In all, it's the perfect stew of good, bad, and ugly(pun intended).    But that is what makes this film so great and deserving of "classic" status. Painstaking …
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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This Western has become a modest cult favorite since its release in 1993, when the film was met with mixed reviews but the performances of Kurt Russell (as Wyatt Earp) and especially Val Kilmer, for his memorably eccentric performance as the dying gunslinger Doc Holliday, garnered high praise. The movie opens with Wyatt Earp trying to put his violent past behind him, living happily in Tombstone with his brothers and the woman (Dana Delany) who puts his soul at ease. But a murderous gang called the Cowboys has burst on the scene, and Earp can't keep his gun belt off any longer. The plot sounds routine, and in many ways it is, but Western buffs won't mind a bit thanks to a fine cast and some well-handled action on the part ofRambodirector George P. Cosmatos, who has yet to make a better film than this.--Jeff Shannon
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