Somewhere out West. Man (Craig) wakes up in the desert, bleeding. Weird metal manacle on his wrist.
Doesn't know who he is. Doesn't know how he got there. Kills some passing lowlifes. Rides to the nearest town: Absolution.
Ordinary kinda place. Usual kinda folks: kindly preacher (Clancy Brown), fretful barkeep-cum-doctor (Sam Rockwell), dog-tired sheriff (Keith Carradine), purty mystery lady Ella (Olivia Wilde), young troublemaker (Paul Dano).
Turns out the bad boy's untouchable, bein' son of local bigwig Dolarhyde (Ford) an' all. Figures he can push the stranger around. Figures wrong. Turns out it's Jake Lonergan - a bigger villain than old man Dolarhyde.
Just another day in Absolution then. Til nightfall that is, when a bunch of machines swoop down from the sky, blow the town to smithereens and make off with half the people usin' some kinda fancy lassoes.
Only thing that'll stop 'em is Jake's fancy wrist cannon. So if they want their folks back, them who's left are gonna have to put their differences aside and posse up to track them unidentified flying varmints down.
Along the way, Jake gradually gets his memory back. Runs into his old gang too. And some Apaches.
Also finds out what mysterious Ella's all about and what the ETs want (same thing as everyone else, truth be told).
It's all based on one o' them graphic novels. But with a tale as outlandish as this, it proves a wise move to play it straight. Mostly.
Course, there's a gutful of guffaws to be had, but it all pans out like 3:10 to The Alamo. With aliens.
Director Favreau has great fun with his flashbacks and dandy effects and such. Even throws in a few sly nods to the genre, yessiree.
But what he needs is a manly, clenched jaw or two to carry it off. And what he gets in Craig and Ford. That's what they do.
The set-up's terrific, but the pacing's a mite skew-whiff. The search and rescue bit kinda drags. Favreau oughta have put his spurs in more often.
Bringing the sheriff's grandkid along don't speed things along none either. Coulda made more use of the dog too.
It ain't free o' clichés. But then what western is? Want a mash-up that does what it says it's gonna do? Saddle up.