“Tombstone” was directed by George P. Cosmatos and is based on the historical events surrounding the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride. The films stars Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Power Boothe, Michael Biehn, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Dana Delany, Jon Tenney, Billy Zane, Stephen Lang and Charles Heston. This film was released on Christmas Day in 1993, a mere 6 months before, “Wyatt Earp”, another film based on the same events, directed by Lawrence Kasdan and stars Kevin Costner.
In 1879, a group of outlaws calling themselves, “The Cowboys”, led by “Curly Bill” Brocius (Boothe) and Johnny Ringo (Biehn) massacred a local police officer’s wedding. Ringo, then killed a priest who gave them a stern warning. Meanwhile, in Tuscan, Arizona, a retired yet well known peace officer, Wyatt Earp (Russell) reunites with his brothers Virgil (Elliott) and Morgan (Paxton) along with their wives as they venture on to Tombstone. There, Wyatt and his brothers quickly invest and gain in stake a local saloon and begin making money but also have a run in with The Cowboys. After a steady flow of injustices, Virgil takes the role of local lawman after Curly Bill kills the town sheriff. When Curly Bill is taking into custody, members of the Cowboys, declare a fight with Virgil and his brothers. This leads to the infamous, “Gunfight at the OK Corral”, in which the 3 Earp brothers are joined by Wyatt’s longtime friend, Doc Holiday (Kilmer). After several members of the Cowboys are killed, the rest of gang begin ambushing the Earps, leaving Virgil with one arm and killing Morgan. In an act of rage, Wyatt begins the “Earp Vendetta Ride” with Doc and a posse of his own to finish off the Cowboys once and for all.
This by far is one of best Western films of the modern era. With the exception of 1992’s “Unforgiven”, this film was a great film and fit the times. While “Wyatt Earp” was more faithful to the source material and was more of a “tell a story” Western, “Tombstone” felt more like an action film and has the better performances. As great as Kurt Russell’s performance is, Val Kilmer is the standout. He definitely has the memorable moments but they are a bit cheesy and cliche. Michael Biehn and Powers Boothe are great in the villain roles. The look and feel of the film are also great. They have callback to other Westerns but still feel modern. My only complaint with the film is that years later when the film was released on DVD and included a Director’s Cut and Extended version that those actually patched the plot holes and missing elements to the original that could’ve remained in the overall film.
After the huge success of “Tombstone”, the Western genre had a new wrinkle. The film out did the Costner led film and has remained one of the successful Westerns of all time. Kurt Russell went on to star a string of hits in the 90s and 2000s like “Executive Decision”, “Escape to LA”, “Sky High”, “Miracle” and “Death Proof”. Val Kilmer would also star in a slew of movies such as “Batman Forever”, “Heat”, “The Saint”, “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Deja Vu”. George P. Costamos would go on to direct 1997’s “Shadow Conspiracy” before his death in 2005. Powers Boothe and Bill Paxton would appear in the 2001 thriller, “Frailty” as well as their own categories of film before their untimely and strikingly similar deaths in 2017. Michael Biehn would appear in a few indie films in the 90s and 2000s such as “Clockstoppers”, “The Rock” and “Planet Terror”.