Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Quick and the Dead, 1995

A passable western for Tuesday's Overlooked Films, Audio & Video at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

I don’t like to see a woman gunslinger any more than I like to see a woman smoker. I’m not being sexist. Of course, a woman has a right to carry a gun, as Ellen (Sharon Stone) does in The Quick and the Dead, and she has a right to smoke or roll a cigarette if she wants to. It’s her business. My point is neither looks good when a woman does it. Besides, I associate both violent means with men. Smoking, in my opinion, is violent too: it can kill or do serious harm to the smoker as well as to the one taking the smoke in the face.

This probably explains, in a skewed way, why I didn’t find Stone convincing as a blonde gunfighter in Sam Raimi’s 1995 western—not even when she draws fast, kills first, and kicks butt. I thought she looked lost in a cowgirl's outfit. At one point her character, Ellen, is so distraught and terrified of the gunfights that she saddles her horse and rides furiously out of town, with no intention of returning. It reveals her vulnerable side.

Ellen enters a dusty and depressing town with a secret motive—to avenge the man who “killed” her father, a US marshal, and destroyed her life when she was a little girl (the film is worth watching for the flashback scene). That man is John Herod (Gene Hackman) whose lawlessness is the new law in town. He pretty much owns and runs everything, like he does as Little Bill Daggett, the crooked sheriff, in Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven (1992).

Herod sets up a gun competition in the town ostensibly to find out who the fastest gun is; when, in fact, his sinister aim is to force his former accomplice, Cort (Russell Crowe), a gunman-turned-preacher, into the contest and put a gun back into his shackled hands. Herod admits Cort is one of the best guns.

The elimination rounds pit the townsmen against each other and turn them into gunmen overnight. The dead pile up which includes the Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young, swashbuckling cowboy killed by Herod, his father.

Herod ensures the penultimate gunfight is between Ellen and Cort. He has no doubt Cort will kill Ellen, thus, setting up the final duel between him and the preacher. But, Ellen and Cort have other plans for their nemesis who suddenly finds himself confronted by the blonde gunslinger consumed by hate and revenge. The look on Herod's face is worth freezing.

While I liked The Quick and the Dead because of Gene Hackman—who is in top five of my list of best actors
I didn’t care for the film itself. There is no story as such, only a bunch of gunmen, and gun-woman, who take turns shooting and killing each other in cold blood, and that's about all they really do.

24 comments:

  1. Prashant, I haven't seen this one and don't think your review has me rushing to find a copy now, but I might keep an eye out for it, if it turns up on the small screen. I do like Gene Hackman - my favourite film of his would be Mississippi Burning

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    1. Col, I like Hackman in MISSISSIPPI BURNING, too, as well as in THE FRENCH CONNECTION. He makes a darned good agent or cop. He is good in parts in this particular film.

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  2. This one passed me by, I don't remember it coming out, and you're not making me think I should seek it out! Like Col, I'm a big Gene Hackman fan, but not all his films were up to standard.

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    1. Moira, you can watch the film when it shows up on your cable. As mentioned, I'm a big Hackman fan too. I thought he was really good in CRIMSON TIDE (with Denzel Washington) and BEHIND ENEMY LINES (with Will Smith). Besides, I'll always prefer him to Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor, the bald villain in Richard Donner's SUPERMAN.

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  3. Gender swapped Once Upon a Time in The West, including a final Woody Strode cameo. Stone produced this, hired Raimi, Crowe, and DeCaprio pre-stardom, so give her points as an eye for talent.

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    1. Bill, thank you for visiting and commenting. I didn't know Stone had co-produced the film. When you put it that way, I don't mind giving her credit for picking Crowe and DeCaprio. Both look very young, especially DeCaprio, who actually looks like a kid, but then he was only twenty-one when he acted in the film.

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  4. This one doesn't sound like my type of movie either, Prashant. I do like Gene Hackman. Who are the other four in your top five?

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    1. Tracy, I watched it because it was a western and it had Gene Hackman. The other four actors in my top five are Jack Nicholson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Tom Hanks. The top five hasn't changed in over a decade. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp would be close on their heels.

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    2. I don't have a top 5 list of authors, but your list has a lot of my favorites too, especially Caine and Freeman. Nicholson and Hanks are both great actors, but I haven't seen a lot of Hanks' movies. We did just see Captain Phillips and enjoyed it.

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    3. Tracy, with CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Hanks reaffirmed my faith in him as a very gifted actor. Prior to that, it was CAST AWAY and THE TERMINAL. I have always liked Caine, especially in his films of the past two decades. I recommend his FLAWLESS (2007) opposite Demi Moore. Is there a role he hasn't been cast in? Freeman puts me at ease.

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    4. If you like an older Caine - I would recommend HARRY BROWN.

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    5. Col, thanks for mentioning HARRY BROWN. I was going through Caine's portfolio of 150-plus films and that name stood out. I haven't seen it yet.

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  5. It was a kind of experimental western. I liked Gene Hackman, of course, and thought his relationship with his son was interesting. Other than that, fairly forgettable.

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    1. Charles, good point. I didn't think of the film as being experimental but you are right. At least I hadn't seen anything like it. DiCaprio was impressive too.

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  6. Yeah, I pretty much agree with you, Prashant. I skimmed through this because I kept thinking this can't be it? And yet, it was. I thought Sharon Stone looked like a model dressed as a cowboy, she looked pretty cool but so not of the time and place. Now, Kathy Bates, I might have accepted as a gun-toting gunfighter.

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    1. Yvette, Kathy Bates as a cowboy? Interesting! She'd make a fine gunslinger and a funny one too. .

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  7. I enjoyed this one as a sort of weird hommage to the Spaghetti Westerns I grew up with in Italy, but despite the great cast it's not very memorable - shame really.

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    1. Sergio, I agree. Now that you mention it the film has the makings of a spaghetti western. The casting was good though I felt Crowe was wasted.

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  8. Well, Prashant...you are being a bit sexist, if in a sort of quasi-positive way. Tens of millions of women smoke (and not a few people who fetishize watching women smoke), and probably millions have handled guns at some point in their lives...and violence will out. I liked this one, as an intentionally serio-comic tribute to Sergio Leone (I like it a bit better than the other Leone tribute from about the same time, UNFORGIVEN, with Eastwood, Freeman...and Hackman playing a Very similar role). The Raimi touch is obvious, and I like its swagger. And Stone's character is even convincingly torn between her human feelings and her lust for revenge on Hackman's...

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    1. Hi Todd, I thought my view might be deemed sexist, hence the explanation at the beginning. Personally, I don't like to see women smoking, or even drinking, because I find the two repulsive and compulsive habits so debasing as to associate them only with men. Fortunately, I come from a place where most women still don't smoke or drink.

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    2. Well, you see...if it's OK for men to do it, even if solely esthetically, and not for women, then it's a double-standard. And by definition, that's...(and, of course, there are those who fetishize seeing women with weapons...and those who festishize seeing men with weapons and with cigarets!). If women aren't allowed to be as Bad as men, then they are being denied full humanity...even if only in terms of sorrow at the sight of them doing what it might be more common to see men doing...

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    3. Todd, I understand your point. As I said before, women have as much right to smoke and drink as men do. However, I was alluding to the sheer futility of the two cheap vices and that if they must be indulged in at all, then I'd prefer men doing it. I mean, what is the purpose? There is nothing aesthetic or dignified about smoking and drinking. It's self-indulging and self-destructive, and a drain on one's health and finances. I can understand women carrying guns in line of duty or for protection.

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  9. Alas, though, to want women to adhere universally to higher standards, to allow men to be more debased in even a trivial way with somehow less criticism, again lands you in the double-standard nettles...sadder still, considering all the damage they can do, there are reasons why tobacco and alcohol, or at least the nicotine in tobacco and the tannins in wine, might have some medicinal value (very fuzzy and initial and no doubt Tobacco Institute-sponsored findings that nicotine Might help with Alzheimer's, for example). Ah, well.

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    1. Todd, well said. The tobacco lobby in India is powerful and has much influence in political circles which explains why regular cigarettes or "beedi" (Wikipdedia: a thin Indian cigarette filled with tobacco flake and wrapped in a tendu leaf or possibly even Piliostigma racemosum leaf tied with a string tied at one end) are not banned in spite of the growing clamour for a total ban on all forms of tobacco. Instead, the government increases excise duty on cigarettes every year in the hope that the price will deter smokers. I don't think it has. On the other hand, more and more youngsters are staying away from the lethal stuff and that includes alcohol. Of course, prohibition has seldom worked.

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