The mashup concept starts off with a nod to The Bourne Identity, when a man (Daniel Craig) soon to be known as Jake Lonergan wakes up in the desert with no idea who or where he is and discovers that he’s been wounded and has a fancy metal shackle on his wrist. Three bounty hunters ride up, ready to bring him in, either in whole or in pieces, and he dispatches them with ruthless efficiency. The man heads into town, ruffles more feathers, including those of a cattle baron (Harrison Ford) with a good-for-nothing son (Paul Dano) and an adopted Native American (Adam Beach) who is the son he longed for.
And then, from over the night horizon, “they” come flying in, snatching townspeople like fish in a pond and our no-named guy (OK, his name is Lonergan, but everybody in the audience will forget that and match him up with the Clint Eastwood type, so why not just go with it) blasts an alien out of the sky and gets drafted into leading a tattered posse (featuring Clancy Brown, Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde) against the aliens, who, based on the way they are so matter-of-factly accepted, could have been from somewhere across the ocean rather than from another galaxy.
Bang, bang, chitty, bang, bang goes pretty much everything, and none of it means a thing.
Jon Favreau and his all-star producers (Brian Glazer, Ron Howard and Steven Spielberg) along with a solid cast keep the whole shebang banging, but there’s not one ounce of heart or believability to be found. Cowboys & Aliens will likely rustle up a few bucks at the box office, but it won’t inspire the shock and awe of a calvary ride from the good old days. Grade: C-
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