Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 130 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Review Date: April 15, 2010
There have been many films that purported to tell the story of Wyatt Earp and his battle with lawlessness in the Southwest. George P. Cosmatos’s Tombstone is one that seems to stick fairly closely to the facts while maintaining an engaging, action-filled momentum that never lets up. It doesn’t have the epic sweep of Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp nor the lyricism and majesty of John Ford’s My Darling Clementine, but on its own terms, it’s entertaining and features a boatload of talented actors, some on their way up the ladder to stardom and others achieving the apex of their careers so far with their work here.
Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) has tired of fighting for law and order in Kansas and arrives in Tombstone, Arizona, with his common law wife Mattie (Dana Wheeler-Nicholson) and brothers Morgan (Bill Paxton) and Virgil (Sam Elliott) determined to make money, keep a low profile, and definitely stay out of the sheriff or marshal business. That becomes impossible when the West’s first true criminal gang The Cowboys ride roughshod through the area and terrorize citizens whenever they see fit. Led by the hotheaded Curly Bill (Powers Boothe), fast draw Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), and bullying Ike Clanton (Stephen Lang), the gang walks softly around the Earps and Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) until drink gets the better of them and Curly gets arrested. After that, it’s all out war between the two factions with the Earps somewhat reluctantly donning badges again in an effort to maintain the peace in Tombstone.
Usually a less than competent director, George P. Cosmatos here must have been inspired by the incredible band of talent he has on his hands resulting in his finest work as a director. Sure, it’s meat and potatoes direction with mostly rudimentary camera moves (one sequence where Ringo and Doc Holliday face off against one another in the street finds the director bringing the camera up and around the two circling cobras, each ready to strike the first blow in an expressive move atypical for him), but with these fine actors, it’s often just enough to turn on the camera and let them go for it. Kevin Jarre’s script takes us past the gunfight at the O. K. Corral into the retaliation of the gang against the Earps and their ultimate vengeance giving a complete arc to the storytelling, but a couple of side trips into a theater showing an on-stage presentation by traveling players stops the film dead unnecessarily. It’s good for some scene setting color, and it serves as a decent introduction to the character of Josephine (Dana Delany) who figures importantly in Wyatt’s future, but it could have been cut with Josie’s introduction placed in a later scene. Other characters such as Billy Zane’s actor Mr. Fabian and Jason Priestley’s Billy Breckenridge are introduced but have next to no screen time to justify their existence. Still, the story is told forthrightly and with spirit, and it holds its own with other film versions of this same biographical tale.
Val Kilmer steals every scene he’s in as the tubercular Doc Holliday. With an accent as soft as oozing molasses and the heightened senses of a hawk, his Doc Holliday remains his best-yet screen performance. Kurt Russell doesn’t quite fill the charismatic boots of Wyatt Earp that we’ve seen so many other famous actors occupy, but he has some very effective scenes nevertheless and emerges as an acceptable protagonist. Better in a smaller role is Bill Paxton as the younger, more innocent brother Morgan while Sam Elliott breathes the Old West as the man-of-few-words Virgil. On the outlaw side, Powers Boothe and especially Michael Biehn make memorable villains while Stephen Lang’s blustering but begging-for-mercy Ike Clanton is a decided change of pace role for him after scores of rough-talking tough guy roles he’s played. Effort is made to give Dana Delany something three dimensional to play as Josephine, but the movie just can’t give time over for her to develop it. Likewise Dana Wheeler-Nicholson’s opium-addicted Mattie can only offer a one dimensional take on Wyatt’s one-time lover before she fades away off-screen. In even smaller parts, there is effective work done by Michael Rooker, Jon Tenney, Buck Taylor, and Charlton Heston.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is the transfer’s strongest aspect with deep, richly saturated hues which are very bold but without any noise. Sharpness is usually nicely delivered though there are some soft shots, and an occasional speck of dirt, neither very distracting. Black levels are quite impressively deep. The film has been divided into 25 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix makes impressive use of the surround channels with numerous split effects which put the viewer right in the midst of the action with incredible vivacity and some impressive use of the LFE channel. Bruce Broughton’s music score is given a majestic handling in the mix sweeping through the fronts and rears fully enveloping the viewer. Only the slightest tendency for the high end to be slightly shrill prevents this audio track from achieving reference quality levels.
Three featurettes detailing the making of Tombstone may be watched separately or in one 27 ¼-minute grouping. Director George P. Cosmatos and the stars of the film (including Wyatt Earp III who has a small part in the movie) talk about their characters and their own approaches to playing real-life people. Another featurette delves into the authentic period designs of the sets and costumes featuring production designer Catherine Hardwicke. The third featurette focuses on the fight at the O.K. Corral sequence, how it compared to the real-life encounter, and the actors’ feelings about what came afterward. All of these are presented in 480i.
There is a montage sequence of director George Cosmatos’ storyboards for the O.K. Corral sequence featuring Bruce Broughton’s score playing as the storyboards are presented. It runs 4 minutes in 480i.
A gallery of trailers and TV spots may be played together or separately. The theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes. The teaser trailer is 1 ½ minutes, and each of the seven TV spots are ½-minute each. All are in 480i.
There are 1080p trailers for The Prince of Persia, Surrogates, and When in Rome.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Tombstone makes for a gorgeous looking and sounding Blu-ray release. Fans of the story or these actors will likely be most impressed with the high definition presention which is offered here. Recommended!