Sam Raimi directs Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Russell Crowe in this western where a town has a deadly quick draw shootout contest every year and a group of flamboyant strangers sign up with differing motivations.
A wonderfully over the top entertainment. Made in the wake of Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven, this is easily the slickest, most cartoonish action movie to follow those more somber eulogies to the fading genre. Shame The Quick And The Dead didn’t capture the general public’s imagination more as it is a pacey and spectacular blast. Sam Raimi has never seen a comic book angle he didn’t want to recreate in live action. Dante Spinotti lenses Academy Award winner Patrizia von Brandenstein’s elaborate lived in production design with a glowing reverence, as if it were the second coming of sets. Alan Silvestri’s score apes all the greats from The Big Country to spaghetti westerns via his own Predator theme. And this is a wondrous movie for character actors getting showy roles; Lance Henriksen, Keith David and Tobin Bell are just some of the distinctive pistoleros seeded through the early knockout rounds. The leads all have a ball, in fact, I’ve never seen Leonardo DiCaprio betray quite so much joy in a role as he does here as the baby-faced Kid. Gene Hackman gets a couple of meaty monologues and always feels like a fully fledged threat to the white hats he faces down. Russell Crowe makes an excellent impression in his Hollywood debut – the man of the cloth who can’t help but be a man of action when he is being drawn on. This is first and foremost a vehicle for Sharon Stone, she does fine work as the well attired but mysterious no-name we mainly invest in. Rather than lazily write her as supernaturally more capable than the freakish villains and the blowhard men, this angel of vengeance often suggests a hint of fear and trauma beneath her outwardly gruff and steely composure. And when she does what she has to do in the big finale it feels earned rather than a fait accompli. Shazza gets some neat lines and arousing moments in the downtime, never getting lost in the flamboyant ensemble. As a western fan, I find this near perfect but I do concede some might see the overly affectionate polishing of all the old cliches and tropes a bit one note. For us Gen X tenderfoots, this is Red Dead Redemption heaven.
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