Coen Brothers Remake 1969 Classic 'True Grit'

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The Coen Brothers have remade the movie True Grit, and it stars Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. The 1969 version starred John Wayne.


American Westerns are not as common at the multiplex as they once were, but a new movie with a familiar title has landed in theaters: "True Grit." Film critic Kenneth Turan says that it owes more to the original novel than to the movie that won an Oscar for John Wayne.

KENNETH TURAN: The year is 1873 and 14-year-old Mattie Ross is on a quest to bring the man who killed her father to justice. She hires U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges, a one-eyed man who knows no fear, though even the marshal is a little scared when he realizes that Mattie plans to come along on the trip.


HAILEE STEINFELD: (as Mattie Ross) Can we depart this afternoon?

JEFF BRIDGES: (as Rooster Cogburn) We? You are not going. That has no part of it.

STEINFELD: You have misjudged me if you think I am silly enough to give you $50 and watch you simply ride off.

BRIDGES: I'm a bonded U.S. marshal.

STEINFELD: That weighs but little with me. I will see the thing done.

TURAN: That killer, Tom Chaney, is being chased for another crime by a smug Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf, played by Matt Damon. He joins their party, much to young Mattie's disgust.


STEINFELD: (as Mattie Ross) Why have you been ineffectually pursuing Chaney?

MATT DAMON: (as LaBoeuf) He shot and killed a state senator named Bibbs in Waco, Texas. Bibbs's family put out a reward. You know anything about the whereabouts of Chaney?

STEINFELD: Well, he's in the territory and I hold out little hope for you winning your(ph) bounty.

DAMON: Why is that?

STEINFELD: My man will beat you to it. I've hired a deputy marshal, the toughest one they have.

DAMON: Well, I will throw in with you and your marshal.

STEINFELD: No. Marshal Cogburn and I are fine.

TURAN: Veteran moviegoers will remember the 1969 version of "True Grit," which saw John Wayne winning an Oscar as the one-eyed marshal. That version softened the Charles Portis novel, but the writing and directing Coen brothers are not known for softening anything.

The eccentric characters and odd language of the original are right in their wheelhouse. No one is odder and more eccentric than feisty, fearless and plain- spoken Mattie Ross. She's played by 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld, who handles the vim and vigor of Mattie's language like she was born speaking it. Perhaps being 14 has helped Steinfeld to connect with Mattie's no nonsense stubbornness, her determination not to be pushed around when she's in the right.

Mattie Ross is this actress's first major role, but it's not likely to be her last.


WERTHEIMER: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.



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