Totally entertaining! James Bond and Indiana Jones work together to battle against aliens in Western.
Directed by Jon Favreau - as much harking back to his overlooked Zathura (2005) as Iron Man (2009) - Cowboys & Aliens put its not-too-many human characters front and centre. A straightforward, linear plot is also offered; lean, rather than bloated and, while skipping over a few gaping holes, it largely makes sense.
Along the way is delivered pleasing action sequences, during which you can actually make out what's going on. The visual effects assist rather than burden the storytelling adding to the atmosphere (instead of sucking it out). Favreau's genre mash-up is not groundbreaking or perfect, but it is traditional and charming - and that counts for a lot.
Cowboys & Aliens also feels refreshingly unsterilised. The lead character smokes. There is a scene in which a child is given a knife as a gift and, later, uses it to stab an alien to death. The whole production has a gritty, sweaty, blood-smeared look, recalling the revisionist "oaters" of the late '60s onwards, as opposed to the crisper offerings of the genre's golden age. This ain't aliens versus Shane; it's aliens versus The Man With No Name and The Wild Bunch.
Bullets, arrows, spears, teeth and claws puncture flesh, with gouts of blood flowing. Wounds need sewing up and spent gun-barrels sear skin. One action beat even sees an alien being messily offed by dynamite... tethered to a dagger.
As the Clint-esque, amnesiac bad-hat Jake Lonergan, Daniel Craig is an intense presence; laconic, simmering and brutal, a creature of bone-snapping action rather than whip-smart wit.
Along him we have Harrison Ford's town-bullying ranch-man who shifts gears from leathery grump mode (at the outset) to something with a glimmer of his Dr. Jones twinkle. Ford's occasional interjections prove welcome, including one which viewers will be tempted to imagine was the actor's own reaction to the script. At a campfire conflab, it is revealed that the green, bug-eyed interlopers are on Earth because there's gold in that planet.
Even so, Lonergan and Dolarhyde make for a dour pairing, both characters defined by loss, tragedy and inky-dark pasts. There's none of the Iron Man films' sense of irreverence - just grim people dealing with a grim situation. There's little lightness from the supporting cast, either. Olivia Wilde is a shimmering, otherworldly presence in a multi-layered yet underwritten romantic-interest role, Sam Rockwell jitters and whines as a rattled barkeep and Adam Beach pines for a father-figure as one of Ford's stooges.