Before I begin this diatribe of vitriol, let it be known that my grand dislike for Tombstone Rashomon is nothing personal. Rather, this shall be an honest assessment of what I was forced to endure while watching this pointless, boring, forgettable film. I do not take any pleasure in my following sentiments other than being able to vent my disdain in a tighter duration than was the thankfully short 81-minute runtime of the feature in question.
That said, there is almost nothing to enjoy in this glorified cosplay caught on film. Tombstone Rashomon is directed and written by cult favorite Alex Cox who gained popularity with his debut film Repo Man in 1984 and Sid and Nancy starring the amazing Gary Oldman in 1986. Which begs the questions— What the hell happened? Who the hell allowed this? Why the hell did they bother? (deep healing breath) Let’s just get right into it.
You’re No Daisy. You’re No Daisy At All.
Here’s the film in a nutshell; a documentary film crew goes back in time to film the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Arriving two days too late, they decide to instead interview the survivors and townsfolk who have conflicting, often grossly biased, versions of the historical event. I’m not kidding. This is the actual premise, which could have been interesting if at some point it was explained how a bunch of people actually traveled back in time in the first place without changing the course of history when interacting with those from the past, or any other trope one might find in a competent time travel story.
But this would require a budget, of which, I would imagine went mostly towards costumes and the cheap digital muzzle flashes used in the fight scenes. Back to the bigger issue, if you are going to use time travel as your engine for the plot, do more than simply tell us with some on-screen text only to never address the idea of time travel ever again.
Okay, maybe the time travel element isn’t the real story here. The real movie is about how a story can change depending on who tells it. But then again, TIME TRAVEL!
The events leading up to the gunfight are recounted interview style by the cast which is then played out for the viewer on what looks like a western movie set. Now, I mentioned costumes earlier. These are some of the cleanest people in the old west. Everyone is dressed in period-accurate garb that looks like they just came back from the cleaners. You’ve never seen crisper linens and whiter whites in your life, I assure you. Seriously, how much does dirt cost? It’s all over the set! This tiny nitpick almost took me out of the movie more than the unaddressed time travel.
They Have Not Yet Begun To Defile Themselves
The rest of the film is mostly half-assed drawls droning on and on about who did what to who and when— etc, but then again, we’ve already seen all of this before in a slew of better movies throughout the years, with 1993’s Tombstone being quite possibly the pinnacle of them all. Honestly, I wished I was watching Tombstone the entire time I labored through this mess. To future filmmakers, if the film you are making is not going to be as good as a film which did everything you’re doing only better, minus the time travel, don’t bother making it.
Now before you say it, yes, I understand the story of Wyatt Earp is a historical event and Tombstone Rashomon is merely someone else’s interpretation of that fateful day, but there is also a reason when one mentions said event in passing conversation most of the world immediately thinks about Kurt Russell and company.
Did I mention the time travel? Goddamn, this movie!
I’m Not Your Huckleberry
I wish there was more to tell you about the film, I really do. The back and forth from scene to scene is forgettable and badly written, right down to the part where one of the characters begins drinking opium and jokes about how she hopes it’s not addictive, laughs, and gulps down some more. Or maybe I can gripe about how the actor playing Doc Holiday coughs repeatedly like a kid faking sick to get out of school. Or how Doc’s lady friend stumbles through one of the most awkward Hungarian accents in cinema history. Or how Earp and his boys ride up in an honest to God police cruiser out of nowhere. You read that right. A Police SUV, from the modern-day, lights and all, shows up in this picture. Don’t ask me why because at this point I really don’t care.
Maybe I missed something. Maybe I didn’t get the joke. Maybe this is just a terrible movie. Whatever this monumental debacle was going for in the end, it failed majorly while managing to reference two far superior films in its title.
Time travel. Really?!
What are some of your favorite time travel or western films? The fine folks at Film Inquiry would love to know. Leave a comment and get the conversation started.
Tombstone Rashomon is available April 21st on disk and digital.
Does content like this matter to you?
Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.