Watching Alex Cox’s Tombstone Rashomon immediately after viewing the Kurt Russell led Tombstone makes for quite the shift in quality. Brushing up on my history of the events surrounding The Gunfight at OK Corral, the legendary battle fought in the town of Tombstone, hailed the end of the gun-toting cowboys of the Old West. Tombstone Rashomon wishes to tell the sudden build-up and immediate aftermath of such a fight, with its plot centred on a documentary crew travelling back in time to interview the survivors of the fight, members of the town and those who were there to witness it.
Awful performances are littered throughout the leading cast of this one. Unforgivably poor in almost every regard, the cast struggle to deliver even the most rudimentary of lines. Everything they say or do feels forced, as if they’ve only got one shot to do the take and are racked with nerves. What tends to be the case throughout this piece is that we watch a scene drag itself out, and then cut to an interview to explain exactly what we’ve just seen. The interviews are a nice touch, an interesting concept that does make for a fundamentally engaging premise, but the delivery and execution is enough to destroy any form of edge it could have given the narrative.
What begins as a blend of fiction and reality soon dribbles into awful narration and spiel from Christine Doidge, whose lack of articulation really saps the life out of the littered recreations the film has to offer. A very wooden performance that acts as a mouthpiece for the story, it really is rather unbearable. Still, the rest of the cast are much the same, wooden performances that, I assume, try and capture how awkward the residents of this western town feel in front of futuristic technology. Those intricate, interesting moments are brushed over entirely for a boring recollection of events leading up to the infamous gunfight.
From a technical perspective, though, Tombstone Rashomon is all over the place. Recreating interactions between the characters, blending it into the interviews with no real rhyme or reason, the narrative and pacing is disgraceful. But Cox brings with him one or two moments of artistic merit, a few nice camera angles here, a couple of editing styles there. It’s nowhere near enough to make for a film worthy of watching, but it’s nice to see that there are a few moments of ingenuity. The film on the whole though looks and feels rather strange, a faux western style, a poorly lit set at the best of times makes for an uncomfortably bright film, one that feels over-saturated and a bit of an eyesore.
I assume the comparisons to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon are in acknowledgement of his narrative style, but even then, the similarities between Tombstone Rashomon and Rashomon are limited at best. Cox’s direction and spark doesn’t have a chance to make it through the layers of awful performances and flat cinematography. A long way away from the glory days of Repo Man, Tombstone Rashomon provides an ill-crafted adaptation of a famous cowboy gunfight, but its interest wavers almost instantly as its aims and discourse fall apart from the very first moments.