By Brian Orndorf
Needlessly sloppy and dramatically skeletal, ”Tombstone” is a comic book encounter, not a feature film. I suppose the appeal of the picture lies in its Crayola construction, a two-fisted broadness that moviegoers can easily sink their teeth into. It’s determined Old West escapism, but whoever actually directed this picture (George P. Cosmatos is officially credited, but star Kurt Russell recently admitted he ran the troubled shoot after original director Kevin Jarre was fired) wasn’t interested in anything more than a primary colored spur-jangling soap opera. The plainness of emotion grates almost immediately, as does the cartoonish costume design and laziness of the production (Brooklyn native Paul Ben-Victor is actually painted brown to portray a Mexican bandito), adding up to a dreary routine of the obvious, dusted with often random flashes of violence to sufficiently butch it up.
”Tombstone” is clumsy and clearly patched together in haste, with characters strolling in and out of the picture with more on their mind than the final product allows them to communicate. Disney shaved this one down to primitive revenge picture ingredients, making the hysterics of brotherhood and villainy unproductive, handed to a cast of hammy, hungry icons and semi-stars (including Thomas Haden Church, Billy Bob Thornton, Stephen Lang, Terry O’Quinn, John Corbett, Michael Biehn, Billy Zane, Powers Boothe, Bill Paxton, Jason Priestley, Charlton Heston, Michael Rooker, Sam Elliot, and even Frank Stallone) left alone to deduce motivation, while Russell gnashes his teeth and spews corny lines even he doesn’t appear to believe in. This is no knock on the one and only Snake Plissken, as he’s a marvelous actor with a special screen charisma. However, Russell is no match for an apathetically told story that seems in a hurry to burn through the basics of the Earp saga, most pointedly showcased in the lawman’s abrupt dalliance with cheerless stage performer Josephine (Dana Delany) – a leaden subplot so incomplete, I wonder why the studio even bothered to leave it in.
As for the celebrated turn from Val Kilmer as quippy killer Doc Holiday, it’s a scenery-chewing, tongue-twirling performance that’s as superficial as the rest of the picture, but at least Kilmer appears to be having fun. It’s more than I can say for the rest of the listless cast.
”Tombstone” is cheap zoetrope experience, providing basic cowboy goods without much continuity. It’s a glorified chapter of a lousy serial, and while I understand the hunger for brainless slabs of western conflict, I can’t believe, nearly two decades later, that this is the film most people regard as the definitive 1990s take on Wyatt Earp.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
Another strong Blu-ray transfer from Disney, Tombstone encompasses a crisp, clear and colour-popping presentation complete with a dynamic DTS-HD 5.1 Soundtrack.
Extras-wise, there’s not a lot for you fans to chew on – just some storyboard stuff, a making-of, and some trailers – but I’m sure the film’s many films will want to invest in a copy of the Blu-ray regardless.