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Film Review: Tombstone

Updated on December 11, 2015
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Review written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


In 1993, George P. Cosmatos released Tombstone, based on the events revolving around Wyatt Earp and his time in Tombstone, Arizona. Starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, Charlton Heston, Jason Priestley, Jon Tenney, Stephen Lang, Thomas Haden Church, Dana Delany, Robert Mitchum, Billy Zane, and Billy Bob Thornton, the film grossed $56.5 million at the box office. Though it failed to garner any award nominations, there was a paperback adaptation written by Giles Tippette that expands on the screenplay released in 1994. It eventually was eventually ranked #20 out of all films released in 1993.


Legendary lawman Wyatt Earp moves to Tombstone, Arizona to begin a new life with his brothers and their wives. But after he establishes himself as a dealer in a saloon, the town marshal is shot dead and his brothers volunteer to fill the void which creates tension.


Though not a completely accurate depiction of the Earps’ lives, Tombstone is an enjoyably good film, especially in its retaining of a moment from Wyatt’s life that seems like it could never happen. During the hunt for all the Cowboys, Earp and his posse are ambushed at a riverside when he decides to walk out into the middle of the water, picking all the Cowboys off before killing Curly Bill. It’s a great representation that demonstrates just what Earp is willing to do in order to enact justice and vengeance for Morgan’s death and Virgil’s handicap.

But what’s really interesting is the whole organization of the Cowboys, seeing as since they’re made up of so many different personalities, all of its members are going to be somewhat different. There’s the second in command, and later leader, Johnny Ringo. The man establishes that he’s going to be a villainous murderer in the first scene when he shoots an unarmed priest trying to rebuke and tell them about their eventual fates. But he’s also pretty cultured, show in that he actually understands the warning, translates it as he quotes the bible and then holds a conversation in Latin with Doc Holliday during their first meeting. Then there’s Ike Clanton, who talks tough, but is actually a complete coward who decides that he’s going to collapse and whimper for mercy when the shooting starts during the gunfight at the OK Corral. He also fights dirty, seeing as he takes cover in a building, grabs a gun and fires at the Earps from behind. And when Wyatt and the posse are charging him from behind in the end, he decides he’s going to give up being a Cowboy and rips off his sash. But where a majority of the Cowboys are irredeemable, a few of them are shown having standards, such as those led by Sherman McMasters. When someone fires a gun and nearly kills one of Wyatt’s sister-in-laws, they state that attacking defenseless women as something they couldn’t get behind and join Wyatt as a posse in his vendetta. Curly Bill also show some redeemable qualities, even though he doesn’t leave the Cowboys. He’s shocked when Ringo shoots the priest and tries to maintain peace in Tombstone, telling Ringo to stop being such a hothead.

As for the heroes, Doc Holliday is quite the character, just as cultured as Ringo and seemingly established that he’s the only one who can actually match him in combat as well. He’s also incredibly close to Wyatt Earp, shown when he mentions that Earp is the only friend he has. And he shows his friendship with Wyatt in, knowing that he can’t win against Ringo, by manipulating Wyatt into giving him the Marshal’s badge so he can convince Ringo that he’s a Marshal and manipulate him to dueling Doc instead. It’s an impressive gambit that shows how Doc thinks. It’s an interesting plan that really goes along with how he actually wants death, which makes sense because he’s suffering from tuberculosis. The film also presents some irony in how Doc wants to die with his boots on in a gunfight, but near the end, it shows him lying in a hospital bed without his boots on. He eventually does, but not before actually noting the irony himself.

There’s another instance where Doc thinks and pulls off an odd attempt at keeping Wyatt from doing anything stupid. He coughs in Wyatt’s drink when the latter is trying to get drunk. It’s a good moment that shows he knows Wyatt as a person, knows that Wyatt wouldn’t want to risk tuberculosis just to get drunk and the lengths he’s willing to go to help his friend through a depressing moment.

4 stars for Tombstone

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion


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