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Spotlight On The Coen Brothers' Remake Of John Wayne Classic 'True Grit'

April 7th, 2009 11:52am EDT
Coen brothersIt's difficult to conceive the Coen Brothers' next big venture, a remake of the classic John Wayne western True Grit, as either a traditional western or a traditional remake. Our blogger friends are reluctant to speculate. They call it a case of the "remake bug" or "disappointing" (the spurs of the Duke can never be filled, right?), and the most common thread is that this isn't actually a remake since the Coens plan on staying true to Charles Portis' original novel.

Don't be fooled by the naysayers. This is absolutely a remake, somebody will play John Wayne, or rather Rooster Cogburn, (but really John Wayne) and this is far from disappointing.

In case you haven't seen it, True Grit is the story about a rough-necked, hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners, drink-til-you-drop marshal played by, you guessed it, John Wayne who takes on a revenge for hire job from a 14 year old puritan girl who wants a dose of justice Old Testament style. Eye for an eye, you feel me?




That's the nutshell, and despite the Coens' contention that their True Grit will be more in line with the original novel than the Oscar winning film, the two weren't all that dissimilar. Westerns are like zombie movies. There are only about three plot lines you can do, and they all involve shooting people in the head. With westerns, you're either protecting the ranch, 'goin' on a killin', or you're in a convoluted Sergio Leone film. The only difference really is who's playing the John Wayne role.

True Grit isn't so much concerned with plot as it is character, and if you've ever seen a Coens' Brother's film then you know that this plays to their greatest strength. (I mean, what the hell was The Big Lebowski even about, anyway?) So you can expect the focus to rely heavily on the relationship between the tough as steel Rooster Cogburn and the self righteous piety of the young Mattie Ross.

Ethan and Joel Coen


Joel and Ethan Coen to remake 1969 classic 'True Grit' which should reach theatres sometime in 2011



Also playing to the Coens' strength is the tale's delicate balance of humor and "grit", which plays out in the 1969 film to such an extent that the movie feels like a comedy up until the killings begin. This should remind you of the Coens' last film, Burn After Reading, which is probably the most disturbing comedy I've ever seen.

The main issue that the new True Grit will be facing isn't its stereotypical western plotline, nor is it the bad taste that most remakes leave in the mouths of true fans, but it's the curse of filling the boots of the Duke himself. How can you forget The Alamo? Every time you meet a Texan the first thing they say is, "Remember the Alamo!" Referring, of course, to the 2004 Alamo remake in which Billy Bob Thornton tried to play Davy Crockett (but really John Wayne) and well, you remember what happened.

The Alamo 2004


The Alamo 2004 remake - © Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved



So who are the Coens' going to get? George Clooney is the only man who comes to mind who could carry the weight, but he's still overcompensating for his role as Batman. He might not want to take the chance. So who else is there?

The Coen Brothers are big risk takers. Their prolific style has produced some of the greatest classics of our time. From the suburban noir of Fargo to the Depression era comedy/musical, O' Brother Where Art Thou. But then their last remake, The Ladykillers, was a disaster. And did anyone even see Intolerable Cruelty?

The announcement of a True Grit remake is unsurprising. It's a high stakes movie by some of the biggest rollers in the Hollywood game today, and if you're a fan of westerns, John Wayne, or of the Coens' then you should be keeping your eyes peeled on the horizon. It's gonna' be a hot one.

Eric Jones
Story by Eric Jones

Starpulse contributing writer


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