The first is a John Wayne classic from 1969. A teenage girl wants to avenge her father's murder, so she recruits an old marshal to help her. When word first hit that the Coen brothers were attempting their own version of 'True Grit,' it was met with the usual apprehensive response. Why would two talented filmmakers like the Coens bother themselves with old fare? Though it's not quite a cinematic remake -- the brothers went back to the source material to be more faithful to the book -- it did fit nicely into the category of useless remakes.
But then the cast started flowing in -- Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin, Matt Damon -- and a killer teaser suggesting that we might just have an Oscar contender on our hands. Only a short time later, we've got a full-length, whimsy-free trailer, one that should wipe away any skepticism over the project, especially those pleased with how the genre has evolved over the last few years.
One thing is for certain: Westerns have a new style. We're living in the days of 'The Proposition,' '3:10 to Yuma,' 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford' and 'Appaloosa.' Grit, true or not, lingers in the dust in this trailer, with a certain guitar-led fervor that explodes with the only man who could out-gruff Nick Cave -- the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. It's as if the Coen brothers threw their old films -- especially 'The Big Lebowski' and 'No Country for Old Men' -- into the blender with our recent and beloved Westerns and came out with a feature that celebrates each and every one of them.
Brolin brings the same menace we've come to expect from his work with the Coens, while interactions between Bridges and Damon offer up a more 'Appaloosa' type of word-play camaraderie. There's violence, manic energy, and still that ever-palpable sense of ease -- calm in the violent western landscape; it's energy without that caffeine-fueled craziness. With the inclusion of Hailee Steinfeld's spunky Mattie Ross, you might even be reminded of the charm between Bridges and Jodelle Ferland in 'Tideland.'
But let us be clear -- it's not a mocking series of regurgitated, old-hat fare. There's a new life in this trailer, which you can check out below before weighing in: Does the Coen brothers' latest have the true grit of a worthy remake? We think: Yes.