Okay, it’s not John Sturges’ Gunfight at the OK Corral, but it’s also not Gunfight’s disappointing sequel, Hour of the Gun. Tombstone is a combination of the two, culminating not with the shootout at the OK Corral, but with a vengeful Wyatt Earp on a homicidal rampage to finish off Johnny Ringo and his boys.
Tombstone is everything a historically-inaccurate Western should be. The Town Too Tough To Die is portrayed as a lawless boomtown with opium dens, Chinese tent cities, whorehouses, casinos, laudanum-addicted wives, drunken louts and ineffectual marshals. The Earp brothers -- Wyatt (Kurt Russell), Virgil (Sam Elliot) and Morgan (Bill Paxton) -- are retired lawmen, looking to cash in by exploiting the local miners and cowboys. Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) is a loathsome gambler dying from consumption. The Cowboys, also known as the Clanton/McLaury gang, are nothing more than range bullies as exemplified with Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Booth) and Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn).
Action-packed, taut with suspense, this star-studded affair from director George Pan Cosmatos and screenwriter Kevin Jarre is one of a handful of decent Westerns to be released in the last couple of decades. Certainly, it is a far superior endeavor to the other Wyatt Earp film released that year, Wyatt Earp, yet another of Kevin Costner’s Heaven’s Gates.
The cast turns it out, Russell, Elliot and Boothe stalwarts in these kinds of roles. Val Kilmer, an oft underrated actor, is wonderful as the slightly effeminate Doc Holliday, his “I’ll be your huckleberry” an instant quotable. A contingent of Billys all put in fine performances as well: a young Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp, Billy Bob Thornton as pissdrunk bully Johnny Tyler and Billy Zane as the foppish actor, Mr. Fabian. Dana Delaney rounds out the cast as Wyatt’s seductress, Josephine Marcus.