As high-concept adventures go, Cowboys & Aliens is a slick, efficient piece of filmmaking that delivers exactly what its title promises, and never aspires to anything more. It coasts on the rogue appeal of two leading men, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, whose chaps are as leathery as their furrowed brows.
If the goal of every screenwriter – for Cowboys, producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard assembled a small army of them – is to grab our attention in the very first frame, well, mission accomplished. Here, we find a bloodied stranger, unarmed and alone in the Arizona badlands. An elaborate device, possibly alien in nature, clings to his forearm like a parasite.
Tony Stark may be self-obsessed and troubled by mortal thoughts – rightly so, considering the mechanical heart that’s keeping him alive is slowly polluting his body with lethal toxins – but he’s no Bruce Wayne. As played by Robert Downey Jr., he combines a sly sense of humor with natural showmanship. He enjoys being a superhero, and soaks up the spotlight with a narcissist’s glee.
It’s refreshing. Stark has a dark side, well-watered with cocktails, but he is hardly morose. He is intoxicated by the adoration of his fans, and tickled by the trappings of fame and obscene wealth. And he’s not afraid to toot his own horn. As he brags to a less-than-smitten Senate committee, “I have successfully privatized world peace.”
The careers of Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn have seemed linked (albeit tenuously, of late) since starring together in Swingers, Doug Liman's 1996 comedy about wannabe actors braving the L.A. social scene. Since then, the pair has collaborated on Made (2001), the Favreau-directed farce about ex-boxers learning the ropes of organized crime, and The Break-Up (2006), in which Vaughn played a freshly dumped man-child and Favreau a sage bartender.