Film Review: Wyatt Earp’s Revenge (2012)
By Christopher Smith.
Superficially this is just another western, although a very well shot one with – in places – an almost French insistence on the beauty of every frame. On the surface though it seem to be just a matter of boy meets girl, of boy mishandling relationship, and as a result the girl getting shot by accident in the place of someone else…boy goes after killers and avenges crime..with a neat plot twist at the end…no I’m not telling… ( Oh yes for the record this certainly isn’t a plot, despite the publicity material, even vaguely based on the real Earp’s life.)
However there is something else going on here. The clue is in the first few minutes. A train appears in a sub frame..and we have just time to see that it is a relatively modern train..no giant cow catcher…and no Indians…before it passes into a tunnel…And then we arrive in San Francsisco in 1907, with primitive motor cars moving decorously through the streets. In a film ostensibly about the wild west we are suddenly in the very grand lobby of the Fremont Hotel acompanying a young journalist who has just travelled on the train we have just seen across America to interview Wyatt Erarp ( who did indeed live on until 1929 )
With the help of extensive, and well handled, flash backs which make up the body of the film Earp then tells and reflects upon his story…In fact though the focus is more recent despite the fact that Earp attributes the violence of the old west to the wounds caused by the American Civil War ( I learn by the way on good authority that in the early westerns former Southern soldiers can be heard signing the songs of the Confederacy .) And in this film one of the badies wears a grey cap- a clear sign of Confederate loyalty..a reflection too perhaps of the fact that Earp’s father had served in the Union army.
But these references to the Civil War are window dressing. In fact as Earp talks about the need for preserving innocence in the final moments of the film it becomes clear ( or I believe it should ) that in this film the Civil War is at least in part a proxy for the Vietnam war…where another generation of Americans lost their innocence. Even more deeply Earp’s reflections in his suite in the Fremont are really those of all generations as they contemplate not simply the circumstances and choices of their own lives, but change and mortality too. As the “baby boomers” leave the stage we are certain to have many more reflective films of this kind. This one is a very good start.