Reviews for 3:10 to Yuma offer a lot of talk about the revivification of a dead genre. Stephen Hunter, the Washington Post critic (whose novel turned movie Shooter shows he knows a little about guns) comments that the success of the Russell Crowe/Christian Bale western will mean "there will be more westerns, and we old goats can die happy, with our boots on, our guns holstered, and the sun at our back, humming Ricky Nelson's 'My Rifle, My Pony and Me' as we go to Jesus." A slightly obscure sentence to those under 50, but I'll be clarifying this line in a minute.
I agree with Hunter that more westerns is a good thing, and if someone can make them without the elements with which James Mangold swamped his hit -- the ornamenting of a simple story with Iraq malaise, irresolute everybody-wins endings, and other add-ons -- so much the better. Stuff that mostly just expanded the running time and sold the story to people who prefer action/adventure films to westerns.
Some critics are claiming that Mangold has added complex morality to a genre that's mostly good guys v. bad guys. Such critics really need another look at My Darling Clementine, The Searchers, or better yet Howard Hawks' serio-comic western Rio Bravo. Here, a group of unsteady deputies, one of them one-legged, led by a slightly nervous sheriff, tough out the same situation as in 3:10 to Yuma: an army of mercenaries encircling a town where a jailed captive waits for his transfer to prison. That Hawks saw the comedy in the situation is no surprise. The director of His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby needed no schooling in the craft of comedy. And just as his The Big Sleep is the ultimate guide to how to be a private detective, he was able to make John Wayne's John T. Chance a light comic figure, even when facing possibility of certain death.