True Grit (2010)
The Coen brothers strip it down in this adaptation of the Charles Portis novel - a remake of a 1969 John Wayne vehicle. In the Coens' version, the Oklahoma setting is cold and grey, and 14-year-old Mattie Ross is the focal point. She's an industrious and thick-skinned kid out to avenge her father's murder, hiring Rooster Cogburn, a hard-nosed drunkard of a marshall, to help her.
The film is a classical western, one of the Coen brothers' most out-and-out genre films. It is neither a homage nor a retrospective effort, but simply a pragmatically told story. The film has a likeable, earnest quality to it which probably will satisfy seasoned viewers and western enthusiasts, but at the same time, it is so unbaked that it almost borders on the counterproductive. There are some poetic elements in compositions and characterisations (for instance, the likes of Rooster Cogburn is conveyed in a slightly romantic light), but the storytelling is so plain that without the thematic explosiveness of No Country For Old Men, True Grit never really takes flight and becomes as absorbing as the onset promises. For that, the characterisations remain too superficial and the performances suffer from it, even if all the actors are well cast.
Jeff Bridges' Rooster Cogburn, for instance, never becomes more than an accomplished caricature, and the relationship between him and the girl (well played by Hailee Steinfeld) doesn't evoke the emotion it should have. The Coens simply don't give their lead actors enough to work with. And with an exceptionally tame epilogue on top of that, True Grit remains a somewhat barren albeit technically accomplished film.