The Movie Waffler Retro Review - The Quick & The Dead (1995) | The Movie Waffler

Retro Review - The Quick & The Dead (1995)

Directed by: Sam Raimi
Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Pat Hingle, Lance Henriksen, Keith David, Gary Sinise, Tobin Bell, Roberts Blossom, Mark Boone Junior

Stone arrives in the town of Redemption with the aim of killing Hackman but becomes involved in a deadly gunfighting tournament.

I first saw Raimi's western on it's initial cinema release. It was one of those glorious summer nights in between college terms when two of my fellow geeks and I headed into town to catch the movie before a night of drunken revelry. I was giggling like a girl throughout but anytime I looked across at my friend Dermot, seated to my right, his face was expressionless. "How can he not be enjoying this?" I wondered. When the lights went up and we departed the theater I questioned his enjoyment. "So you weren't impressed?" I asked. "Are you kidding me?" he replied, "It was hilarious!". My other friend Ruairi, who had been sat the other side of Dermot looked at me in bewilderment and asked "Did you not see him laughing his ass off?" You see, I had completely forgotten something about Dermot. At that time he was in the middle of a bout of the obscure medical condition known as "Bell's Palsy", a bizarre ailment which renders one half of it's victim's face numb. While the left side of Dermot's face maintained a stony expression, his right side was laughing maniacally.
The plot of "The Quick and the Dead" is borrowed from Anthony Mann's great Jimmy Stewart starring western "Winchester 73". The small town of Redemption is hosting a tournament for sharpshooters. Stone arrives in town looking for revenge on Hackman, the evil patriarch of the town and the man responsible for the death of her father. He's basically playing a more tongue in cheek riff on his "Unforgiven" character and seems to be having a great time in the role. Stone enters the competition and defeats various unshaven ruffians before meeting Hackman in the grand finale.
The movie didn't fare too well at the time, neither critically nor commercially, but, as is want with cult movies, seems to have gained more respect over the years. Part of it's failure may be the casting of Stone. Coming off the back of performances in movies like "The Specialist" and "Sliver" she was the laughing stock of Hollywood. She may be the weak link here but there are plenty of great performances to make up for her seeming disinterest. Henriksen's part as a showboating gunfighter steals the show and there's a pre-Titanic DiCaprio playing a cocky Billy the Kid archetype. Crowe also stars in one of his first American appearances. If you attempted to assemble this cast now you'd be seriously out of pocket. As well as these star names there's a rogues gallery of great character actors like Pat Hingle, Mark Boone Junior and Tobin Bell.
Now Raimi is just another Hollywood journeyman but back when this came along he was still known as the man behind the "Evil Dead" series. His camera has all the wild energy of those movies here and I remember this being a complaint from viewers who couldn't get on board with his visual style. At the end of the day this, like most westerns, won't appeal to the mainstream but fans of Raimi from before his dabbling in comic book adaptations and Kevin Costner baseball movies will eat it up.