Movie News & Reviews

Teen actress shows 'True Grit'

Lorey Sebastian

The pioneering Coen brothers don't blaze new territory with "True Grit."

And that's just fine, pardners, because these highfalutin' boys sure know how to wrastle up one spitfire of a Western.

For their latest dip into genre filmmaking, the influential duo behind "No Country for Old Men" and "Fargo" put their unique stamp on a praised novel and a movie classic.

"Grit" delivers all the things we've come to expect from a Coen brothers film: a whip-smart screenplay, colorful characters and sequences that are stunningly acted and shot. That it doesn't aspire to be anything more than a frothy bit of entertainment might disappoint some. To them I say: Just get off your high horse and have a little fun.

The top-notch cast includes three great actors - Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin - who thoroughly deliver. But it's the relatively unknown Hailee Steinfeld - only 13 during filming - who accomplishes the most remarkable feat, sitting as tall in the saddle as the veterans.

Unlike the 1969 film version that landed John Wayne an Oscar for playing gruff lawman Rooster Cogburn, this "Grit" stays relatively true to the 1968 novel by Charles Portis. The more literal adaptation might put off fans of the Duke, but Steinfeld plays the Mattie Ross part so well, others will be happy she's so much in the spotlight.

After all, "Grit" is her story, and it begins with a much older Mattie as narrator, recounting her arrival in Fort Smith, Ark., and meeting Cogburn (Bridges). The precocious 14-year-old hires the boozy, trigger-happy U.S. Marshall to hunt down her daddy's killer, Tom Chaney (Brolin).

"Grit" might not be the same daring caliber of Western as Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven," but, man, can its impressive cast shoot off the killer one-liners.