The Quick and the Dead

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An unnamed gunslinger, referred to as The Lady, enters the Old West town of Redemption circa 1881 where she enters a single elimination gunfighting contest held by Redemption’s ruthless leader, John Herod, a former outlaw. She meets Cort, a former Herod henchman turned reverend, whom Herod captures and forces to enter the contest; and Fee, also known as “The Kid,” a brash young gun shop owner who hopes to impress Herod, whom he believes to be his father, by winning the contest. Though now a preacher, Cort is an amazingly fast and talented gunfighter, and the only man that Herod truly respects and fears. Herod covers this by treating Cort cruelly, denying him water, beating him and keeping him chained to an old fountain.

In the first round of duels, The Kid defeats a Swedish quick-draw champion, while Herod kills braggart Ace Hanlon, who had taken credit for some of Herod’s own accomplishments. The Lady defeats an old enemy she left shackled to a wagon, while Cort defeats one of Herod’s men who thought he was getting an easy kill. Herod later learns that the townspeople have secretly hired a bounty hunter, Clay Cantrell, to enter the contest and kill him. The next day, Herod declares that all remaining duels must be to the death, then kills Cantrell when the two face off against one another. Herod angrily informs the townspeople that since they had enough money to hire Cantrell, he will raise their taxes. Later that day, during a rainstorm, the Lady duels and guns down a competitor who has sexually abused the bartender’s young daughter.

Flashbacks reveal that The Lady’s true name is Ellen, and she had grown up in Redemption, where her father was the town’s Marshal. One day Herod and his men invaded the town, killed all the deputies and tied her father to the gallows. Herod gave Ellen a gun and offered to let her shoot the rope and free him. However, she missed and killed her father instead. Seeking revenge, she has come to Redemption with the intent of killing Herod. However, an uncomfortable dinner date with Herod leaves Ellen unsure about whether or not she can go through with it and she attempts to flee. She then reunites with the town’s local doctor, Wallace, who was also her father’s best friend. The old man convinces her to return to Redemption and free the town from Herod.

With Ellen, Cort, Herod and The Kid left as the four remaining contestants, Kid challenges Herod to a duel to win his respect. Although Herod and the Kid both injure each other with bullet wounds, Kid’s wounds prove fatal and he dies in Ellen’s arms. Herod is saddened by the Kid’s death, but does not publicly acknowledge the Kid as his son. When Ellen and Cort are forced to face each other, they refuse to open fire and Cort only shoots Ellen after Herod threatens to kill them both. Cort furiously challenges Herod to a duel the next day, but seconds before their duel, Ellen suddenly reappears after using the Kid’s stolen dynamite to blow up Herod’s illegitimate business establishments. She and Cort had faked her death with help from Wallace and a blind salesman.

In the confusion, Cort dispatches Herod’s men while Ellen goes on to fight Herod. Although Herod outdraws and shoots Ellen in the arm, she shoots him in the chest and finishes him once and for all with a well-aimed gunshot to the eye. With Herod gone and the law restored, Cort becomes the new Marshal of the town as Ellen rides off into the sunset.

REVIEW:

Sometimes, there are genres that seem to do nothing but repeat themselves over and over again, such as with westerns. In this case, someone needs to come in and do something different, or at least attempt it, no matter what the financial result will be. The Quick and the Dead is a film that takes such a chance.

What is this about?

In this offbeat Western, a lady gunslinger arrives in a frontier town seeking revenge for the murder of her sheriff father by town boss John Herod.

What did I like?

Tournament. Maybe it is the fact that I love fighting like Mortal Kombat so much (until I get bored with fighting the same guys over and over again), or maybe it is the March Madness thing that is going on right now, but I am a sucker for a good tournament. In a stroke of genius, someone decided that it would be a good idea to use gunfighters instead of martial artists in a tournament. While the execution of said tournament isn’t flawless, I can appreciate it. Really, how many of us have thought of a tournament of our favorite gangsters, heroes, villains, etc. This is the same concept, just using gunmen from this, universe, if you will.

Lady Stone. What’s this?!? A female lone gunman that seems to be the hero of the film? Say it ain’t so! Believe it or not, Sharon Stone is the star of this picture. Much like Clint Eastwood’s character in the “Man with no name trilogy”, we don’t know much about her at first, other than she has a hero side to her and knows her way around a pistol. When I think about it, all westerns, with the exception of Bandidas, use women as housewives, whores, eye candy, and/or some kind of sidekick. Stone, who was still riding high from Basic Instinct 3 or 4 years earlier, would have been perfect for a more feminine part, but she took a chance as a lead, standing toe to toe with the big boys. I don’t think she did too bad a job, myself.

Not a Hack…man. Gene Hackman is at his finest villain role here, perhaps even better than Lex Luthor in Superman II. He plays an outlaw gunman who has apparently killed the local lawman and taken over the town, ruling it with fear tactics and taxing them into poverty. In other words, this guy is just plain evil. Having said that, though, one does get the sense he has a sense of honor about him. In the last two rounds of the tournament he faces a young Leonardo DiCaprio, who is rumored, but not confirmed to be his son. The rest of the film he kills on sight, without the slightest bit of hesitation, but with DiCaprio, he does everything he can to keep from killing his possible son. The following round, he faces his former henchman, played by a young Russel Crowe. The previous night, one of Hackman’s cronies does some sort of damage to Crowe’s hand and, sensing that it won’t be a fair fight, he offers to use his other hand to even the odds. It really is quite the twist in a character who seems to be as villainous as they come, but there is a heart in there, somewhere.

What didn’t I like?

Paternity. DiCaprio’s “The Kid” character is similar to many of the character he was playing at this point in his career, brash, cocky, headstrong, etc. It isn’t until he decides to challenge Hackman that we get a sense of humility from him as he tells Stone that he wants to prove himself to his father. All this is well and good, but I didn’t get the emotional weight that I feel it deserved. Had this angle been played up more, perhaps the result of that fight would have been more of a, pardon the term, shot in the gut.

Stone. I give Sharon Stone all the props in the world for being a female lead in gun fighting western. However, I just don’t buy her character. Obviously, the makeup department did all they could to “ugly” up Stone’s beauty, and the wardrobe department kept her looking very unisex, but there is still something too feminine about her. If this were made today, I would cast someone like Michelle Rodriguez or maybe Charlize Theron. Both have proven they don’t take crap from anyone, and also have shown to be able to fit into a man’s world the way this character needs to be able to do. Stone didn’t sell that to me, I’m sorry to say. In the last scene, it was like they gave up trying, put her in tight leather pants, let her hair down, and borderline made her sexy. WTF?!?

Mustache. This is a very small complaint, but Keith David’s character, who was almost non-existent, had the typical old-west moustache, but it looked a bit on the cartoony side of things. I half expected him to start twirling it! It was very distracting, especially for a character that didn’t have much to do. What were they thinking with this, I wonder?

To sum up, The Quick and the Dead is probably one of the more underrated westerns out there. Is it on the level of the great ones from the 60s? No, but it is a decent watch. I say give this one a shot, even if you’re not a fan of the genre. Surely there will be something that you can latch on to. Check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

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