Osage Reviews...TRUE GRIT (2010; Blu-ray; Paramount) - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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Osage Reviews...TRUE GRIT (2010; Blu-ray; Paramount)

Releasing Studio: Paramount
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Rating: PG-13
Director: Ethan & Joel Coen
Starring Cast: Matt Damon, Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin


I must have been the only person – regardless of status whether it be critic, reviewer or everyday joe – that didn’t find appreciable gobs of applause for this oddly paced remake. It seems everyone loved it. But I just didn’t get what the hoopla was about – forget the nearly unforgiveable killing of a horse towards the end (which nearly always kills a film for me instantly, and is an element, seemingly, that the Coen brothers like to use in their pictures…remember when Josh Brolin’s character in No Country for Old Men shoots that poor dog by accident and just doesn’t care? I can’t even watch that scene) this film was riddled with incomprehensible, unintelligible dialogue, rather off-putting acting and absolutely no build up to satisfy the revenge fantasy it’s based on – the entire point of a girl tracking down the man who killed her father through a Texas Ranger and a hardened U.S. Marshall is explored so haphazardly at the end, and the sequence’s standoff moment between the girl herself and Josh Brolin’s murderer character so unsatisfying, I don’t really get why there was so much acclaim for True Grit.

I remember really wanting to see this when I saw the trailers – as a sucker for pseudo-Westerns like Tombstone and loving the Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men, this promised to encapsulate the best of these, depicting Jeff Bridges as a hard-edged, one-eyed Marshall during the frontier era of America who is sent on a mission of revenge. The revenge scenario always proves ultra-entertaining, depending on which filmmaker handles it – Gladiator, The Patriot, Taken and even Ransom are good examples of this genre being done the right way. True Grit, based on the original of the same name, goes wrong in so many places, notably the pacing and ridiculously thick “frontier accents” spoken by the main characters, which makes it difficult to even understand what is being said most of the time. The Coens, while crafting a masterpiece drama with No Country just bombed here with this; where the trailers promised an exciting, anger-driven performance from Bridges’ character, bent on merciless destruction as he looks for his murderous man, played by Brolin, the final product wasn’t that exciting nor did Bridges’ character turn out to be what I expected in terms of depth and complexity. Upon first analysis, Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger character, on board for the mission of bringing in Brolin’s character, seems like little more than a backdrop and a way for him to get his name on the film’s marquee – but he ended up being slightly more entertaining here than Bridges…and that’s not really saying much.

The retelling of the classic John Wayne-endowed True Grit opens with the narration by an older Mattie Ross (Elizabeth Marvel) who describes the systematic killing of her father by one of his hired hands, Tom Chaney (Brolin) and how he made off with one of her father’s horses and two pieces of California gold when she was 14. Young Mattie, played by Hailee Steinfeld, has quite the mouth on her and does a bunch of double-talking as she desperately searches a town for someone she can hire to bring Chaney in for justice. All roads point to Bridges’ “Rooster Cogburn” character, a one-eyed Deputy U.S. Marshall known for being a hardened criminal chaser amongst the locals. Mattie witnesses Cogburn on the stand one afternoon in court, being questioned about his methods for bringing in a fugitive, and immediately pleads with him to take her assignment of tracking down the dangerous Chaney. The interaction and interplay between Steinfeld’s character and Bridges’ is downright silly in many aspects during these sequences; Cogburn sleeps in the back of an Oriental market of some kind as Mattie sits by his side attempting to wise-mouth him into finding her father’s killer. Cogburn, half drunk and making absolutely no sense with much of what he says, eventually agrees to accept the mission of tracking down Chaney for her, but when the morning of their adventure comes, she finds Cogburn has already started his journey without her, leaving a note that he shall return with Chaney so he could face the courts. Mattie, desperate to join in on the trip, races with her horse, “Blackie,” and finds Cogburn and a Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Damon) on the other side of a river, preparing to hunt Chaney – it seems LaBoeuf is hunting Chaney as well for various crimes. Mattie pushes Blackie to his limits, the horse paddling through the water towards the other side of the river, and once there, she demands she come with them, and the three begin their journey after Chaney – but not before a ridiculous and unnecessary sequence involving Damon’s character, having enough of Mattie’s smart mouth, bending her over his knee and actually, literally spanking her. I have to be honest – I thought the horse portraying Blackie was the most entertaining, loveable character in this film. When Bridges’ character shoots him later on as he collapses during a chase sequence, the feeling was beyond heartbreaking; it did not sit well with me, at all.

As True Grit goes on, Mattie, Rooster and LaBoeuf interact as they stop for rest and shelter, and it’s these interactions which were the most ridiculous to me. Between Bridges’ drunken Western frontier babble and Damon’s tacked-on, wondrously fake Western-era ranger accent, it was difficult to follow what any of these characters were saying or talking about – add in Steinfeld’s annoying, lightning-quick Little House on the Prairie slang, and all was lost. Eventually, LaBoeuf cannot take the implications made of him by Mattie and Rooster, as there seem to be three distinct personalities clashing here, and rides off to seemingly leave the two of them to their mission of tracking Chaney. Mattie and Cogburn come upon a shack in the middle of a mountain pass somewhere in the Western wilderness, and stop for food and rest, running into two men who take shots at them from inside the cabin. Rooster, with his gunfighting skills, of course shoots back and hits one of the men in the leg – the entire sequence in my opinion was unnecessary and tiring, basically setting up the following scene in which LaBoeuf returns and discovers the shack, only to be surrounded by some of what appear to be Chaney’s men. Watching from a distance in the hills, Cogburn and Mattie witness LaBoeuf being attacked by these men as Cogburn shoots with precision at the men, coming down the mountain to rescue an injured LaBoeuf.

The final frames of True Grit are perhaps the most disappointing of all, as we’re expecting a major throwdown between the “gritty” U.S. Marshall Cogburn and Mattie’s father’s killer, perhaps in the fashion of the gunfights towards the end of Tombstone, but we get no such action really; the Coens instead approve a script that has Mattie fetching water in a river when she suddenly and unexpectedly comes across Chaney on the other side of the river, the two of them locking eyes. To be honest, Brolin’s Chaney character wasn’t nearly as frightening or threatening as the narrative or trailers of the film made out to believe; the first verbal standoff comes between Mattie and him before other mayhem ensues, including Mattie being captured by some of Chaney’s men, her falling down into a snake pit, LaBoeuf shooting and killing a man having a confrontation with Cogburn in the distance and of course the ultimate demise of Chaney. The whole thing was just wildly unsatisfying though, and wasn’t what I expected from this film. Bridges’ Cogburn character finds redemption within himself, softening his hardened soul (or some such metaphor) when he rescues Mattie from the snake pit after she’s been snacked on by a slithery critter, sucking the snake’s venom out of her hand and racing off on Blackie to get her medical attention before she dies. We later learn, in the film’s closing frames, that Mattie (older at this point and played by Liz Marvel) lost her arm because of the venom from the bite, but survived because of her rescue by Cogburn, and also that Cogburn himself had passed away when she comes to see him in a Western town he’s supposed to be in. The ending of True Grit felt very much like the conclusion of Tombstone in which we learn, with saddened effectiveness, that certain characters have died and yet have made a mark on history, after we’ve become connected with them in the films. However, in True Grit, I wasn’t really moved one way or the other. I didn’t think this remake lived up to the hype it garnered nor do I understand why it received the acclaim it did – personally, I enjoyed the aforementioned Tombstone much better than this, as far as modern Westerns go, as well as the Coens’ No Country for Old Men. As far as I’m concerned, No Country was a far, far better piece of American cinema, without the sequence involving Brolin’s character killing the dog of course.


Paramount’s 1080p video encode for True Grit was absolutely stunning in most places – with just a hint of film grain residing in the backgrounds, this was a rock-solid, detail-rich transfer which truly showed what the Blu-ray format can do. Facial close-ups, brightly-lit outdoor sequences and sweeping vista shots were of the most flamboyant of these elements, as the sequences involving Bridges and the other actors out in the Western frontier wilderness were shockingly realistic. Dirt, gravel, sand and the snowy mountaintops of the frontier terrain were rendered with striking clarity, far surpassing what I assume the DVD edition looked like. It was almost as if you could simply reach out and touch the elements of the transfer from your couch – texture on clothing, facial hair and the intricate details of the Western plain environments popped with eye-opening characteristics.


The sound mix for True Grit left me wanting a bit; from start to finish, it really wasn’t an explosive DTS-HD Master Audio track, and the issues with character intelligibity due to unnecessarily thick accenting made the center channel issues worse than they had to be. However, once adjusted to a comfortable range, the dialogue “issues” became relegated strictly to the production aspect of the film – not of a problem with the audio mix itself. The sporadic gunfight sequences, prevalent in Westerns, were satisfyingly impactful, but didn’t pack the quite the “hit-you-over-the-head” wallop I would have expected – the bullets and cracks of the frontier-era rifles hit the surround channels well enough, but again, the work could have been a bit more engaging for the sound mix here. I actually found this lossless high resolution DTS-HD Master Audio track to be about on par with the lossy legacy DTS mix from the Director’s Cut of Tombstone on DVD…the gunfire, impact and overall dynamics weren’t really “improved” when directly comparing these audio tracks.


This was truly disappointing. Based on the exciting, testosterone-influencing and downright dramatic teasers and trailers for True Grit, I expected more – Jeff Bridges’ patched U.S. Marshall character seemed as though he was going to steal the show based on the trailers, and that his awesome role was going to redefine the meanings of justice and revenge. That didn’t happen. He spends much of the film babbling in incomprehensible drivel, fueled by alcohol and frustration, while Matt Damon’s Texas Ranger character didn’t seem to add up to much, either. Through Damon’s attempts at keeping his frontier-era accent for his character, you could totally make out his own vocal characteristics so prevalent in works like Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting and The Adjustment Bureau. It just wasn’t believable. Further, putting the kibosh on the entire thing was Josh Brolin’s totally wasted, in my opinion, “Chaney” character who is hunted through the whole film – the narrative leads us to believe Chaney is a murderous monster who could only be dealt with by the likes of a Marshall such as Bridges’ Cogburn, but that’s not what really transpires. The actual standoff primarily takes place with the “Mattie” character holding a gun to Chaney, demanding he be brought in for justice after murdering her father, and from there, the whole ending goes downhill rapidly.

This was definitely not a buy for me, as I was disappointed after excitingly awaiting this title on Blu, and I believe the Coens did a much better job with No Country for Old Men. As I said, though, I am in the massive minority of those who didn’t care for the retelling of True Grit; consensus is that this was a wonderfully sculpted piece of cinema.

I’ll be reviewing the Liam Neeson spy/assassin thriller Unknown next!
Osage_Winter is offline  


2010 , bluray , grit , osage , paramount , reviewstrue

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