We Both Have Guns. We Aim, We Fire, You Die.
Westerns are some of my favorite movies, so including it as a category in my contest was a given. What wasn’t a given was which movie it would be. Being a fan of the genre, it could have been any number of movies. I’ve already reviewed True Grit, so that was out. I really like the Unforgiven, but it’s a little too slow for my tastes so I don’t think it’d make it as my favorite. It could’ve been any number of Sergio Leone and/or Clint Eastwood movies, but I don’t have that much love for older movies. That being the case, one western movie caught my attention, so I picked it. Going into it, I remember being very fond of this movie, but wasn’t sure how well my memory holds up. So I’m throwing the dice and hoping that I was right in thinking I really liked the Quick and the Dead, written by Simon Moore, directed by Sam Raimi, and starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Roberts Blossom, Gary Sinise, Kevin Conway, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Mark Boone Junior, Tobin Bell, Jonothon Gill, Lennie Loftin, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Josef Rainer, Pat Hingle, Raynor Scheine, and Olivia Burnette.
A lady named Ellen, but referred to almost exclusively as “The Lady” (Sharon Stone), rides into the town of Redemption, where a single elimination quick draw contest is about to start. The town is run by the ruthless John Herod (Gene Hackman) and the Lady enters the contest shortly after Herod does, and shortly after saving the life of a reverend named Cort (Russell Crowe) who used to ride with Herod. Then she gets drunk and sleeps with another contestant, Herod’s son “The Kid” (Leonardo DiCaprio). As the contest movies along, the Lady is revealed to have a deep hatred for Herod, but we find out why slowly. Will the Lady be fast enough to kill Herod?
Hey! I was right! I still really liked this movie. It’s just badass. The action is well realized, the directing is great, and the story was very involving. At first, the movie makes itself seem like it has a pretty obvious story, being all about the quick draw contest. It would be interesting enough with this, but wouldn’t be anything special. It’s not until the Lady’s motivations of revenge bubbles up that I started getting more invested in the movie, but it works very well. She’s definitely got a really good reason for hating Herod, and when it’s finally shown in its entirety, it’s such a horrible thing that happened to her that you can’t wait for her to kill this dude. Not that he had made himself seem like a likeable character at any point in the movie as everyone hates him, but even he has some decent reasoning for the way he is. Cort also has a pretty great back story. As a matter of fact, a lot of the characters in the contest are given enough story that they’re mostly not just bullet fodder. I would say that one thing didn’t make sense about the story. If everyone in the town knew how fast and deadly Herod was, why would any of them join the contest? Cort didn’t have a choice, the Lady had revenge on her mind, and the Kid wanted to earn his father’s respect, but all of the other people should’ve known better. The dialogue in this movie was also very crisp and most of the characters had a nice snappy line prepared for any old situation.
All of the action in this movie worked very well for me. Some people might think quick draw shootouts move a little slow, but I appreciate them so long as they build up the tension well leading up to the draw. And Raimi does it very well, using a lot of quick cuts, close ups on the faces of the contestants, and quick zooms on the clock that will set things in motion. He also uses the montage a lot, but not in an annoying way. It just works for getting the lesser contestants taken care of quickly so we don’t waste too much time. And one of them was the people preparing for the contest, using various period-correct ways of loading their weapons, which would seem to be pretty boring, but I was interested by it. He also uses shadows and lighting very well, like the part where it showed a guy had gotten shot clean through by having his shadow have a hole in the chest. There was also a part where a character got his head canoed by a bullet that is one of the coolest and most memorable moments in the movie. Even with my dim recollection of the movie, I remembered that part before I started watching.
The greater majority of the performances in this movie were just fantastic. Sharon Stone sets herself up as a badass quick, fast, and in a hurry. She’s got this gruff, abrasive exterior at all times, but sometimes shows that underneath she’s out of her element and frightened. I thought this worked excellently for a character, starting her off as the classic, fearless protagonist, but then humanizing her. Of course, at the very end of the movie she is just straight up badass. She was almost scary when it came time for the climax of the movie. Gene Hackman was almost always intimidating. He played it as almost nice on the surface, but if he was even slightly crossed he turned very intimidating. He even cracks that intimidating façade slightly when something actually happens that he seems to regret. He’s mostly holding it back, but you can kind of see a hint of it. I really liked Russell Crowe’s character in this movie. He was always made out to be this epic badass and stone cold killer, but he had denounced violence and claimed he wouldn’t pick it up again. When he did, it was great. He has a little scene near the end of the movie where he takes out something like six guys in a very short amount of time and it was fantastic. I liked Leonardo DiCaprio too. He always had this cocky little twerp attitude, but it was clearly covering up some serious low self-esteem issues that had been beaten into him by his father. He also performs it very well around the time when he’s going to face his father in the contest where he gets very serious for the first time, and has a very well-acted emotional scene shortly after.
The Quick and the Dead may not accurately be considered my favorite western movie, but I think it’s up there. It’s a lot of good action, a very engaging story, and some pretty top notch performances to back it all up. I’ve liked Sam Raimi as a director for a while, and he seems to fit into the western genre very nicely. It’s not the most groundbreaking movie, but it’s pretty awesome. Check this movie out. The Quick and the Dead gets “Me and Jesse James think it’s the best handgun in the world” out of “Is it possible to improve on perfection?”
Congratulations again goes to Chris for guessing today’s movie and winning his third DVD in this contest. A more paranoid man would begin to think that he’s got cameras in my bedroom and can see the stack of DVDs waiting to be reviewed, but I think I’ll just assume that he’s madly in love with me.
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