Friday, July 29, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens: Strange Lifeforms Plunder Wild West

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) has the power to kill aliens in the bracelet on his left arm in "Cowboys & Aliens." Photo from Universal Pictures.

COWBOYS have their place and aliens have their place. And nary the twain should meet, except they do in a film imaginably titled Cowboys & Aliens.

The film stars Daniel Craig - yes, the current James Bond - as a man with (initially) no memory. It also stars Harrison Ford - yes, Indiana Jones - as a man with no mercy. “Cowboys & Aliens” opens nationwide today.

The stars have about as much chemistry as vampires and garlic. DC’s crotchetiness and HF’s curmudgeonliness are silly and annoying. Anyone who bet that this film is about a showdown between cowboys and ... ALIENS! called it.(Seee videio at:

The aliens strike under the cover of darkness in "Cowboys & Aliens."

DC is outlaw Jake Lonergan who has an encounter with the gold-loving beings – it’s like meth to them – and is robbed of his memory. Inexplicably, he is left with a device on his left arm that appears to be the lone defense against the marauders who are a cross between ET, the extra-terrestrial and that creature from the “Alien” films.

The aliens have literally been swooping down and snatching folks. To defeat them Jake has to throw in with HF’s cattle baron and erstwhile war-hardened colonel, Woodrow Dolarhyde, and sundry other friends and enemies, including a shape-shifting woman (Olivia Wilde), Indians, a doctor (Sam Rockwell), a boy (Noah Ringer) and a dog.

They motley crew sets out in search of the “alien cave,” a pedestrian-looking edifice that would be more at home in a ’50s horror B-movie.The only explanation for the people gone missing is that they may have been packing gold.

The shape-shifter, Ella (Olivia Wilde), and Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) get the measure of each other in "Cowboys & Aliens."

Cowboys & Aliens is a mess and a muddle, though most of the acting isn’t bad. It’s just that the story is so out there that it is comical. The film also has a few cringe-worthy moments when characters are alternately making nice or mean.

"Cowboys & Aliens" is fairly predictable, too. For instance, when one of the alien flying machines – equipped with a rope to catch its prey much like cowboys rope cows and horses – grabs the shape-shifter there is not a moment of doubt that Jake, on horseback, would chase the machine down. He gets close enough to jump onboard to retrieve her. He handled his business precisely as a certain spy would have. And boy does he look good doing it. Except that’s not the point!

It is very hard to separate DC, a fine actor, from James Bond in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Just about every twitch is reminiscent of 007. It does, though, make the heart – and perhaps other body parts – go pitter-patter when the camera pans in on DC’s dreamy blue eyes and his taut and perfectly rounded derriere. Except that’s not the point!

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) examine each other and the carnage left by the invaders in "Cowboys & Aliens."

For his part, HF is utterly unconvincing as the colonel. He does not wear well the semi/bad-guy role. Watching him attempt to convey ruthlessness is dismaying, distressing and depressing.

What were Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and more than a dozen other "Cowboys & Aliens" producers thinking? And what of the nearly 10 writers? What were they smoking? What were they drinking? This is precisely the sort of stew that is served when too many cooks are standing about the pot.

Indeed, life does has a perfect ordering system where cowboys have their place and aliens have theirs. Alas, it is not in the same film with an unfortunate title of “Cowboys & Aliens.”

“Cowboys & Aliens.” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.

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