The Quick And The Dead (1995)

(On DVD, March 2005) The Western genre has rarely been faithful to the historical reality of the American west, opting for operatic grandeur and machismo myth-making over the true grime and uneventful routine of the era. This film cheerfully won’t do anything to correct the record: here, the wild west is only a backdrop to a series of shoot-em-up duels, aggrandized by ridiculously overblown personalities and heightened visuals. I say this like it’s a bad thing, but it really isn’t: The Quick And The Dead is most enjoyable when it goes for broke in its quest for the ultra-Western, and at its weakest when it tries to inject realism (or its boring cousin, “motivation”) into a framework that doesn’t need it. As a tongue-in-cheek take on the pistol-duel shtick, it’s hugely enjoyable. Too bad that it chose to saddle itself with a clogging revenge story, complete with lengthy flashback and barely-repressed rage. But that takes maybe ten minutes, and the rest of the film is a lot of fun: The impressive cast is awe-inducing even today: Gene Hackman has rarely been better at chewing scenery, and any film that managed to snag both pre-stardom Leonardo Decaprio and Russell Crowe is nothing to dismiss easily. Sharon Stone herself has lost a lot of starpower in the decade since this film (and her middling screen presence here may show why), but she looks cute enough as a female gunfighter. The fifth cast member worth noticing is director Sam Raimi, who infuses the film with some much-needed style. Realistic? Absolutely not. As tight as it could be? Heck no. Fun to watch despite everything? Oh yes.

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