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Tombstone (1993)

A movie directed by George P. Cosmatos and Kurt Russell

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It's A Modern Classic

  • Feb 12, 2005
"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 accuracy was put into certain parts of the movie. For instance, according to court records, the famed "gunfight at the O.K. Corral" lasted roughly thirty seconds. Time that showdown in the film and see just how accurate it is on screen. Read the famous "No Les, No More" epitaph on the tombstone of Lester Moore on Boot Hill. See the sheer looks of terror on the faces of the townspeople. These little things, while not very important by Hollywood's standards, are what give this film a sense of realism.

On the other hand, Bill Paxton's characterization of Morgan Earp is laughable at times. He is the weakest character in this film. Ike Clanton, although he was pretty much a cutthroat chicken according to history, is assigned the unfavorable role of comic relief. Powers Boothe is a little over-the-top as Curly Bill Broscius, and you have to admit that Kurt Russell seems to be a little TOO involved with his portrayal of Wyatt Earp. Much like the accuracies of the picture, however, these little near-misses only add to the appeal of the flick.

The best portrayal of any character in this flick has to be Val Kilmer's Doc Holliday. He plays the guy with a devil-may-care attitude. He has a deathwish, which makes him deadlier than anyone else in the film. Those who have studied the history of this complex man understand that once the Yanks basically took everything from him and he contracted TB, he really had no reason to live. I think that Kilmer captured this aspect of Holliday to a tee. His relationship with "Big Nose" Kate was rough, and I think that the actress who portrayed her in "Tombstone" is perhaps a little too attractive than pictures of the real Kate reveal, but she does very well in the role. Sam Elliot, as always, is perfect in this film. He plays the eldest Earp, Virgil. He also seems to have his head on the straightest. In all, the majority of the cast does a superb job in this film. The wooden characters, most notably Paxton, however, still manage to play an important role in making this film great.

As far as the accuracy issues are concerned, this movie is rather accurate and probably the most accurate account of what really happened based on court papers. Many people laugh at some of the action in the film, but most of it really happened. To this day, people argue over who actually killed Johnny Ringo. Odds are that in a man-to-man gunfight, Earp wouldn't stand a chance against Ringo, so the legend of Holliday coming to save the day does hold some weight. No one really knows Holliday's final words, but "That's funny," seems fitting. When watching a film based on actual events, keep in mind that some creative changes were added to move the story along. Also, when dealing with the Wild West, remember that dimestore novels made men into legends. A common cattle thief can become a Billy the Kid, and even poker hands can get tagged as a "Dead Man's Hand."

In conclusion, this film is the perfect mix of accuracy, legend, good, and bad. It isn't the best Western film ever made, but it definitely ranks in the top ten. Add it to your collection today.

Highly recommended. I'd give it five stars, but we all know that this film doesn't have as much widespread appeal due to the fact that it is a Western.

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More Tombstone reviews
review by . September 26, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
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Kendall Fontenot ()
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Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … 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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