REVIEW: True Grit

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Sometimes a trailer ruins a movie. All the best action scenes, the big CGI set pieces, and the funniest lines are packed into a 150 second package. Other times the studio’s marketing department will make a movie look completely different through a trailer. The movie looks like a fantasy action-adventure movie, but after four hours you are left with The Fellowship of the Rings. You feel betrayed. The commercials and trailer for True Grit show gunfights, old fashioned stand offs, and big time talk. What is missing from the trailer is the humor.

Skip the next paragraph if you don’t care about the characters or plot. It was boring to write and even more boring to read. I kind of have to include it when reviewing a movie.

Directed by the Coen Brothers, True Grit is about a 14-year old girl hiring a US Marshall to hunt down the man who murdered her father. Seems serious, right? The girl, Mattie Ross, is a tough as nails 14-year old played by Hailee Steinfeld. Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn, the US Marshall tasked by Mattie to find the man that killed her father, Tom Chaney. Oh, Chaney is played by Josh Brolin, who is… well… interesting. Lastly, Matt Damon plays a Texas Ranger, LaBoef, who has been chasing Chaney since Texas. Matt Damon pretty much plays Matt Damon with a silly mustache and an even sillier accent.

You can start reading now if you skipped. The recap paragraphs are always the worst. I hate it. These should be better. I said, “should” like it’s going to be riveting prose. It is still a movie review.

The movie is genuinely funny. Very funny. It is not a straight Coen Brothers comedy, like The Big Lebowski or Burn After Reading. It is just light hearted. Rooster Cogburn is an insufferable prick, often times drunk, and quite abrasive. Jeff Bridges mumbles through ninety minutes, but throws out one-liners more often then he is serious. Hailee Steinfeld plays the straight man. She has the best exchange in the movie: an Anton Chigurh-like conversation between Mattie and a businessman. It isn’t menacing like its sister scene in No Country For Old Men, but clever and funny. It is this interchange that will sell you on the movie. It sets the humorous tone. If you do not enjoy it, then you likely won’t enjoy the movie.

The performances are all uniformly great. Bridges and Steinfeld stand out and carry the film. Matt Damon does a good job next to these better performances. The secondary characters, like the businessman discussed above, and Barry Pepper, playing Lucky Ned, only add to the colorful cast created by the Coens.

Overall, it is a solid movie, though not one of their best. When it’s good it’s very good. It is funny, lighthearted two hours in the West. 3.5 Stars.

I never saw the original True Grit. Part of me wants to watch it, but I’ll probably have to stumble upon it. If I catch it on TCM or something I’ll give it a look. Just like the time I watched the original 3:10 to Yuma. Result: I fell asleep.

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