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.
Rarely before has wordy exposition been employed more excessively and to lesser effect than in Angels & Demons, Ron Howard’s middling follow-up to The Da Vinci Code.
For those craving action and suspense, there’s little to be found here, despite a whirlwind denouement that sees our hero, Harvard professor and renowned symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), racing around Rome in search of an Illuminati killer. (More on that later.) Instead, screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman subject us to a heavy-handed history lesson about the Catholic church that owes much to author Dan Brown’s tendentiously researched novel.