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'Cowboys and Aliens' delivers what it promises

Article Published: Aug. 4, 2011 | Modified: Oct. 6, 2011
'Cowboys and Aliens' delivers what it promises

In the new sci-fi Western, "Cowboys and Aliens," director Jon Favreau ("Iron Man") delivers what he promises: Cowboys and aliens.

And for that matter, it's a pretty fun, action-packed ride - a popcorn flick that's aware of its silliness, but presents itself in a matter-of-fact, Western sort of way.

It's not a case of style over substance, but rather content over substance. But what an entertaining concept.

Daniel Craig ("Casino Royale") is gunslinger who awakens in the desert with no memory of who he is or why there's a bizarre, metal clasp around his wrist.

Something he hasn't forgotten is how to fight, which he demonstrates against three would-be bounty hunters. Upon reaching the nearby town of Absolution, a wanted poster indicates that the stranger is none other than notorious outlaw Jake Lonergan - a fact not missed on wealthy rancher and Civil War vet Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford, "Raiders of the Lost Ark"), who Jake and his gang had earlier robbed.

Just as Jake's being hauled off to jail, the townfolk, including barman Doc (Sam Rockwell, "Moon") and preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown, "The Shawshank Redemption"), notice strange lights in the night sky. Before they know it, the town's under attack by alien fighter-craft, blasting away buildings with ray guns and abducting any unfortunate passerby that steps in their way, including Dolarhyde's son (Paul Dano, "There Will Be Blood"), Doc's wife (Ana de la Reguera, "Nacho Libre") and Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine, HBO's "Deadwood").

As the chaos ensues, Jake's bizarre wrist-wear comes to life, revealing itself as a rather effective piece of alien weaponry. When one of the creatures is wounded and runs for the hills, Dolarhyde forms a posse, insists that Jake and his newfangled wrist laser come with, and follows in hot pursuit. The mysterious Ella Swensen (Olivia Wilde, "Tron: Legacy") also joins the chase, claiming her people were abducted, as well, and that Jake knows more than he's letting on.

Loosely based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name, "Cowboys and Aliens" is pretty much a straight-up, somewhat cheesy Western. With aliens. The characters are Favreau's caricatures of classic Western archetypes, and the cast approaches it accordingly - Craig and Ford, especially.

"Cowboys and Aliens" was written by a team of six screenwriters, and it shows with the film's lack of depth. Fortunately, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Star Trek" 2009) are among them, and there are a couple moments of brilliance - particularly the aliens' motive - that keep the film in line with Favreau's unlikely vision.

"Cowboys and Aliens," rated PG-13 for intense sequences of Western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 16 or visit

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