Each Monday, I continue to share Western movie reviews as I go through the process of making my own 12 Westerns in 12 Months during 2020. I am watching these films not from an audience perspective but as a filmmaker, as a student of the genre.
Week Forty Five: The Quick and the Dead
Like the last Western I studied, Duel at Diablo, this film definitely belongs in the “don’t take this too seriously” bin of the genre. Of course, what else could you expect from Sam Raimi, the maker of the Evil Dead trilogy, though he would flex his dramatic chops at the end of the 90s with his best film to date, A Simple Plan. I’ve never loved The Quick and the Dead. This is probably my third or fourth viewing. But it has a lot to like about it if you surrender and just go along for the ride.
The most fun is the cast. From Lance to Keith, it’s packed full of character actors, some with a long history in the genre. Then you’ve got the amusement of seeing DiCaprio and Crowe so early in their careers. Crowe, in particular, shows how ready he was for the films to come in the late 90s that would make him a big star. But in terms of acting, the most fun to watch is Gene Hackman. He commands the screen as the evil, authoritative figure while all the time remaining the most grounded element of the entire film. On this viewing I actually wanted him to win, as crazy as that may sound.
Stone, an actress who is far better than she gets credit for, may be the one who comes off weakest, at least on this recent watch. Her character is just trying too much to be a male hero, while still looking like a supermodel. I realize we’re dealing with a comic book Western here but I feel like they should have increased the tough meter with her character, both inside and out.
The camera angles and edit are all in your face and there’s only two choices: go with it or get annoyed. This time, I went with it and was fairly amused at one of the pulpiest Westerns that’s ever been made. In retrospect, it’s a hell of a lot better than most of the ones we see these days.
Seen on VHS.