Movie review: True Grit

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

One of my favorite things about Joel and Ethan Coen is you never quite know what to expect.

They've got a signature style, sure, but their projects are so varied they often leave you asking, "O Coen brothers, where art thou?"

Their latest is one of their most intriguing turns yet, following up the fretful 2009 black comedy "A Serious Man" with a remake of "True Grit," the Western that won John Wayne an Oscar. Or, more precisely, it's a return to the novel that film was based on.

The results are a blast, but in an unexpected way. I guess I should have expected that from the Coens.

After her father is shot to death in cold blood, 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) travels to track down the killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). Ross is a headstrong firestorm of a teen, matching wits with grownups who are quick to dismiss her.

To track down Chaney, she hires Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a hard-drinking and grizzled marshal known for his lack of mercy. They cross paths with a posturing Texas ranger named LaBoeuf (Matt Damon), who has been tracking Chaney for another crime.

Upon seeing the dark trailers for "True Grit," I was expecting the Coens to revisit the territory they traveled so well in "No Country for Old Men." What I wasn't expecting was that there would be so much of their wry comedic flair.

Seriously, this is one of the funniest movies of the year.

The sort of playful and dancing dialogue that made me love "Raising Arizona" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" is all over the place here. And this superb cast is having a blast with it.

Bridges sports an eye-patch and just grunts and chews his way through the Cogburn role. He's reunited with the Coens, who directed him as The Dude in "The Big Lebowski." Once again, you won't be able to imagine anyone else for the part.

The young Steinfeld is also outstanding, bringing both smarts and a tenacious determination to a role that would be diminished without both.

The actor who isn't grabbing the headlines - and should be - is Damon. His arrogant but harmless ranger preens, delivering lines like he's practicing them in a mirror. It's perfect for the character and consistently hilarious.

"True Grit" isn't the serious Best Picture contender you might have thought, but it's damn entertaining.

True Grit

Now playing

3.5 stars out of 4