Movie of the Week: Deadwood – The Movie (2019)

Daniel Minahan directs Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant and Gerald McRaney in this late in the day continuation of the finest TV show ever made, revisiting the Wild West mining town a decade after its troubled formation.

Those who haven’t watched Deadwood “suck cock by choice”. So goes the parlance of David Milch’s Shakespearean revisionist Western. A show about a community forming in the face of violence and corruption as much as it was about whores and shootouts. The intricate poetic foul mouthed language, the gorgeously stitched, aged and muddy costumes, the thriving ensemble of note perfect performances have all been revived. Everyone looks a fair few bar fights older, yet the key joy for a fan is watching how swiftly Milch sets out the board. Not only within 15 minutes has the masterful screenwriter deftly reminded us where everyone was left by the cliffhanger of unexpected final episode but… cancellation and huge swathe of time be damned… he manoeuvres nearly all of the beloved pieces back into the same position of conflict with an elegant turn of his hand. Only the since passed Powers Boothe’s diabolical Cy Tolliver feels absent. To accomplish such a respawning point with so little clunky exposition or belief tugging falsity is a magic act of writing, a type written miracle. What plays out then is magisterial. Greed and wrath battle justice and order. The sophisticated characters fight their natures and history for the greater good. There’s gunplay, coarse threats, monologues to the gods and even Wu’s pigs get a feeding. Every actor is on top form, to single one out would be a crime. To say I love Deadwood is an understatement, and I realise this movie only works if you watch the 30 or so hours of televised perfection that preceded it. It is no Firefly > Serenity in that respect, Deadwood 2019 is not a feature continuation that exists on its own merits. But those 36 episodes are readily available. I started rewatching them again the day after I wolfed this reunion down. The entire and now complete narrative is an experience that grows and gives back on return visits, it is so dense and rich and full blooded. The finest piece of screen writing ever achieved now has a closing chapter. An two hour epilogue that works as well as There Will Be Blood’s milkshake coda or LaLa Land’s alternative reverie. Heaven… or, more appropriately, gold.


My Top 10 Revisionist Westerns

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