The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe
Director: Sam Raimi
Plot: Seeking revenge for her father's death, a woman enters a quick-draw competition in a Western town ruled by a wicked outlaw and populated by some dangerous inhabitants.
Review: The first things that's evident when watching The Quick and the Dead is that the filmmakers have gone out of their way to revitalize the Hollywood Western and make this a blast of pure entertainment. Sure, the plot is predictable and as linear as anything we've ever seen, but there's a good load of suspense and thrills in here, as well as lots of tongue-in-cheek humor, that's sure to please fans of the genre. This is a highly stylized homage to the Spaghetti Westerns like Sergio Leone's
For a Fistful of Dollars and its sequels, one where the traditional aspects have been greatly exaggerated, from the atmospheric music, dust-swept settings,
to the multiple close-ups of squinting, sweating faces, and the sudden outbursts of violence. Director Raimi
(Spider-Man, Darkman) uses the spectacular dynamic camera tricks, bizarre angles, and impossible shots he so expertly used in
Evil Dead 2 to best effect, giving the film an extra oomph; adding some great cinematography to the mix, the film looks nothing if not absolutely splendid. In fact, Raimi is showing us in one slickly made package what we might remember of the Westerns we watched in our youth. The gunfights are tense, inventively choreographed and (thanks to some judicious use of special effects) provide some good diversity, but it's the colorful characters (including Ace showman / gunslinger Lance Henrickssen), exaggerated Western themes, and over-the-top circumstances / situations that make the film so much fun. Hackman, as the vicious town owner, chews the scenery in his own inimitable way, yet also gives a much rounder sheen to what could have been a stereotypical evil role. Stone, taking lessons from the Clint Eastwood school of acting, looks the part of the ultra-cool cow-girl, and Crowe, then
relatively unknown, gives a terrific, charismatic performance as the killer-turned-priest. The film also stars a young, stringy actor by the name of, yes, Leonardo di Caprio who does a fine turn as the teen
gunslinger looking for respect. Mixing elaborate visual flair, high camp and referential cleverness with a stellar cast,
The Quick and the Dead is as entertaining a Western as you'll ever see.