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‘Tombstone Rashomon’ (review)

Produced by Alex Cox,
Fernando Sulichin, Merritt Crocker

Written and Directed by Alex Cox
Starring Adam Newberry, Jesse Lee Pacheco,
Christine Doidge, Eric Schumacher,
Benny Lee Kennedy, Richard Anderson,
Jason Graham, Shayn Herndon, Michele Bauer

 

A film crew time travels back to Tombstone, Arizona in the Old West, hoping to document the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Unfortunately, they arrive one day after said event, so have to settle for interviewing the survivors and sifting through the conflicting accounts.

Sid and Nancy and Repo Man director (and Western film aficionado) Alex Cox has made a wildly uneven but ultimately fascinating look at Westerns, mythology and American law and order.

The opening stretch of the film feels very slow (and, at times, frankly amateurish), but it picks up steam once we start to get into the minutiae of day-to-day life in Tombstone as well as the laws and social mores of the time.

True to its title, the film offers differing perspectives on what actually occurred, evoking the Kurosawa classic.

This is made crystal clear with the sheriff’s and Wyatt Earp’s reports of what the sheriff said as the Earp gang approached Ike Clanton and company.

I’ve read some history of the Old West, but am by no means an expert, especially when it comes to this event. But the film feels well-researched to me, and if so, should be especially appealing to historians and those with a strong interest in the history of this time period.

The film has its share of flaws, alas.

The off-camera interviewer has an oddly mechanical voice which is quite distracting at first. This technique does briefly and amusingly pay off in a late segment of the Wyatt Earp interview, however.

The time travel angle is half-baked at best. We do catch a glimpse of the film crew as they take selfies in front of the graves of the fallen and they look like your average tourists.

So, why would the survivors agree to participate in the interrogation? It’s never made clear and is rather far-fetched. Also, why do they so easily accept the idea of time travel without comment?

To be fair, this is hardly Cox’s concern. The time travel angle is just a device to get the film going, and Cox is no stranger to anachronisms or cinematic leaps.

This is shown in bold relief during one flashback/recollection which shows Earp and his cronies hopping into a police SUV to drive to the OK Corral to confront the Clanton gang.

It’s amusing – and recalls Cox’s fascinating, hugely anachronistic mixed-bag that is Walker – and certainly hammers home the parallels between the questionable use of authority on display here and current events.

Very little gunplay action per se, but Western fans should get a kick out of this film. With an extra goose to those who like their oaters with a bit of social commentary.

Tombstone Rashomon is available now on DVD; On Demand July 7th

 

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