|The Quick and the Dead
1995 - R - 105 Mins.
|Director: Sam Raimi
|Producer: Joshua Donen, Allen Shapiro, Patrick Markey
|Written By: Simon Moore
|Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gary Sinise, Pat Hingle, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Woody Strode, Bruce Campbell
|Review by: Carl Langley
When one thinks westerns – a genre that has practically dropped off the face of the earth – one thinks Eastwood. Riding into town on his horse, Eastwood acted as if he already owned the place; one cannot help but know that he already does. Very few have tried to follow in the master’s footsteps. Admittedly, Kevin Costner did a fine job with Open Range, a story about revenge – the typical baseline for most westerns. But in the 1995 western, The Quick and the Dead, its headliner journeys into town with the thought of inheriting some title. What is the catch? What makes this vehicle any different from the other western motion pictures? This time around the stranger is a she.
I may or may not lose to a girl here
Sharon Stone stars as Ellen ‘The Lady’ – clearly a pseudonym that mocks Eastwood’s The Stranger, The Preacher, etc. – returning to the town ruled by the vilely ironfisted gunslinger, John Herod (Gene Hackman). The Lady wants revenge (of course) for what Herod did to her family in the past. The perfect opportunity arises when the despicable bad guy decides to host an eliminating shootout contest in the windy and dusty streets. Stone is surprisingly effective at varied points, but the film wants her exceedingly to be The Woman With No Name and no one could match Eastwood, let alone Sharon Stone.
Sam Raimi already suffered with the syrupy subplot, which involves Herod and his son, The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio) having rough relations. Then he loses control of suspense by inserting one too many showdowns. The one on one gunfight is usually the pinnacle of tension in westerns. High Noon, one of the most famous westerns of all time, excellently heightened the anxiety of its final shootout as each minute ticked by until the time arrived and by then, the viewers were prodigiously anxious to discover what happened next. The Quick and the Dead offers a dozen showdowns give or take a few, and it becomes repetitively wearisome.
The movie offers a cast to drool over. On top of Sharon Stone, there is Gene Hackman, who is viciously evil, but does not outdo his thrilling performance in his other western Unforgiven. Leonardo DiCaprio was in his pre-Titanic career and always showed promise in his supporting roles. Here he possesses a rebellious flair as Hackman’s emotionally abandoned son. Gary Sinise pops up in flashbacks as Ellen’s father and Russell Crowe gives the most encouraging performance as a preacher transformed from a gunslinger who must advert to his old ways to survive. The film offers a handful of other recognizable faces such as Keith David, Pat Hingle, Lance Henriksen, and old-timer Woody Strode. There is even an amusing cameo by Bruce Campbell, a trademark in Raimi’s films.
The Quick and the Dead moves too quick (no pun intended) for anyone to be bored; at least it never drags things out. Raimi usually does a decent with fast-paced films and it is no different here. The problem is the film never goes anywhere; it leads to nothing. This is a major disappointment because one would expect more from a director like Raimi. Even if the film is looked at as a parody of old westerns, it still does not work. Ladies cannot lose though; while men are wishing they can go one on one with Stone, ladies can enamor themselves with a pre-Titanic DiCaprio and a younger, more sophisticated looking Russell Crowe.