By Kam Williams – Senior Movie Critic
I suppose the good old days are gone forever when you could make a Western without worrying about being political correct. I can still remember how, growing up, everybody (even the Native American kids) not only rooted for the frontiersmen to defeat the wild Injuns on TV, but we also preferred to be white settlers whenever we played “Cowboys and Indians.”
After all, we were being brainwashed in history class to believe that the indigenous tribes deserved to be pushed off their land by any means necessary, since they were “standing in the way of progress.” This attitude was reflected in an intolerant culture that made it perfectly respectable for President Teddy Roosevelt to suggest that “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
However, along came more enlightened times, and the classic Western gave way to comedies like “Blazing Saddles” (1974), as well as iconoclastic variations on the theme a la “Little Big Man” (1970) and “Dances with Wolves” (1990). Written and directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart), puts yet another unique spin on the ever-evolving genre.
This tale of redemption stars Christian Bale as Captain Joseph J. Blocker, a ready-to-retire veteran of the Indian Wars who had made a career of slaughtering savages. So, you can imagine his surprise when he’s ordered to escort a dying Cheyenne chief (Wes Studi) from New Mexico to Montana.
After being threatened with a court-martial, he grudgingly accepts the assignment and begins the thankless trek accompanied by a rag tag crew of deputized desperadoes. En route, the misfits rescue Rosalie Quaid (Rosamund Pike), the traumatized sole survivor of an Indian raid.
Perhaps the numb damsel-in-distress will snap out of her comatose state just in time to ride off into the sunset with Captain Joe. Luckily, some cliches die hard.
Very Good (3 stars). Rated R for profanity and graphic violence.
Running time: 135 minutes. Production Studio: Waypoint Entertainment/ Bloom Media/Le Grisbi Productions. Distributor: Entertainment Studios.