I don’t understand the frenzy of critical praise for True Grit. Did the critics drink some kind of tainted water? I’m here to tell you save your $10, $12, $14—whatever it is they charge in your hometown for a movie these days and watch this one on DVD. I have not seen the original version with John Wayne, nor have I read the book, so I’m judging the movie strictly on its own merit. I’m also a huge fan of Westerns.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this movie but people are acting like it’s the second coming of Christ. The less hysterical reality is this is a classic revenge story told from the point of view of 14-year-old Mattie Ross who is out to avenge her father’s murder at the hands of brutal killer, Tom Chaney. Mattie is brought to life by Hailee Steinfeld, also 14-years-old, in a performance that does deserve all the praise and attention it’s received. She is the heart of the movie and completely owns the screen from beginning to end.

Mattie hires, Marshall Rooster Cogburn played by Jeff Bridges to track down her father’s killer. Bridges, one of my favorite actors, is funny, nasty, and sad as the alcoholic Marshall who is doggedly single-minded in his pursuit of lawlessness and ultimately fiercely loyal to the young Mattie. Matt Damon is totally convincing as the Texas Ranger who joins in the pursuit of Chaney. The performances are all top notch.

There is nothing new here though and not seeing the crime that sets the story in motion hurts the film. We never meet Mattie’s father nor do we see their relationship and this creates a distance from the murder that takes away from the emotional impact of the movie. The problem is the same with the Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) character who has been built up as a menacing killer and is the object of the manhunt but when we finally encounter him toward the end of the movie, it’s played for comedic effect and he’s more bumbling idiot than gun wielding terror. The reason Darth Vader has remained one of the all-time best villains is because when he makes his entrance, he is damn scary.

I don’t need perfect structure or plot but I do need to feel connected to the characters and with True Grit, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was on the outside looking in.

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