The Quick and the Dead

Somehow High Noon keeps coming to mind while watching this film, The good guy doesn't want to kill anymore, the town is scared ****less, and there's a great big clock. No need to sit on the edge of your seats as the clock nears twelve and the tension builds, however, because this time around someone's bound to get killed every hour on the hour. The differences in this film are: that there's lots a' killin' all the way through, it doesn't take too long before the good guy starts killing again (quite profusely), and this time around it's the man in charge that the townsfolk are afraid of.

Redemption is the name of the town run by big, bad Herod (Gene Hackman), the fastest gun in the West, where an annual quick-draw tournament offering big money lures both homespun hopefuls and celebrated gunslingers to its dusty doorsteps.

Herod figures it's easier killing them off and letting them kill each other off so's to be sure of remaining "the fastest gun in the West." But this year a woman has signed up. This story centers around the woman (a sort of "femin-west" film). She comes to town with a gun in her hand and revenge in her heart. This role is played by Sharon Stone, who also co-produced the film.

Stone will probably have the sexy and dangerous character she played in Basic Instinct attached to her for some time, but the fact is that she has already appeared in 52 films and this one, at least, shows that she is definitely capable of more.

Hackman turns Herod into a fascinating three dimensional character and, as a result, makes him the most interesting one because, despite being evil, he is human. All sorts of elements display themselves in reactions which are not entirely written into the lines.

New Zealand-born, Australian-raised actor Russell Crowe is convincing as the quiet and moody Cort, alias bad-guy-turned- good-guy, but one can't help noticing that he looks and acts distractingly like Mickey Rourke. In any case, it should be fascinating to see what he delivers opposite Denzel Washington in his upcoming film Virtuosity.

It's also a joy to see Pat Hingle again who, although he only plays a sort of cameo as Horace, the bartender and scorekeeper, is a man of presence and great talent, even when he's placed in a smaller role.

The art of gunslinging is noticeably visible throughout. I don't think there's a film to match it in this respect. One marvels at the number of times and ways guns are lifted, turned, twisted, twirled, slung, toted, fired, and holstered in different and fascinating ways. No simple "Bang! you're dead" for these killers. Their talents are entirely due to the art of gun coach Thell Reed, whose knowledge in this area includes a vast number of historic draws made famous by a bizarre assortment of gunmen.

Director Sam Raimi seems to have given up the horrific thrills of the unknown for the downright dirty gunslinging of the Wild West. The result is a fast-paced entertaining western where the bullets fly a mile a minute and the laughs are not left far behind. One fun example is the moment where Ace Hanlon (Lance Henriksen), the gun for hire who's come to town to kill Herod, has his final confrontation; this ends in a surprising display (to say the least).

Superb points for director of photography Dante Spinotti and production designer Patrizia von Bandenstein as well as editor Pietro Scalia.

It's worth viewing simply for an enjoyable evening of entertainment. As Raimi himself says, "Our goal is to entertain". And, besides, who wants to miss the chance of seeing Sharon Stone ride into Redemption?

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett