|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 02 December 1997|
U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) brings his extended family to Tombstone to retire and go into the business of gambling. However, when the small town's sheriff is killed, Earp's brothers (Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton) take up the cause and become the town's law enforcers. Unfortunately they are no match for a band of outlaws, known as the Cowboys, who overrun the town eventually killing Earp's youngest brother and prompting Earp to go on a rampage across the country killing every Cowboy in sight.
Much of the story centers on the friendship between Earp and his old pal Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) who is a drunk, a professional gambler, and a professional gunslinger. What the film fails to do, however, is reveal how this friendship began or why the bond is so tight.
What could explain some of this is that 'Tombstone' was a film beset with problems during its production. In its rush to beat Warner Bros.' 'Wyatt Earp' to the box office, Disney didn't hire director George P. Cosmatos ('Shadow Conspiracy,' 'Rambo: First Blood Pt. II) until the middle of filming. Also, this script was subjected to so many changes all involved stopped counting.
Still, the Wild West was never as boring as it is in 'Tombstone.' Moreover, I seriously doubt its factual accuracy, as many of the key players known to this story, such as the Clanton brothers, are never mentioned. Despite the fact it has all the necessary ingredients, gun battles, depravity and adultery (though there are no sex scenes) this movie has zero excitement. Even Bruce Broughton's score, unfortunately, contributes to the slow and ponderous pace of the film.
Since there are so few Westerns being produced in Hollywood, hard-core Western fans may appreciate certain aspects of Tombstone. If, however, you like Westerns but would like to see a good one, here are assuredly some better alternatives. Warner Bros.' 'Wyatt Earp' with the underwhelming Kevin Costner turned out to be more factually accurate and definitely more exciting despite its extensive running time. Or, for a real classic, try 1957's 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, 'High Noon,' or Clint Eastwood's Academy Award winning 'Unforgiven.'