1 item from 1995
November 28, 1995
For Wild Bill Hickok, it all ended not with a bang but with a derringer. So goes the sage philosophizing of this reverent but cut-the-boots-off demhythologizing of one of the West's legendary gunmen. Western fans and film buffs will ensure some early select-site appeal for this release, but the film's repetitive cadence of Wild Bill's grubby, gun-happy life will not hit the mark with mainstream audiences.
Starring Jeff Bridges as the sullen, quick-to-draw Hickok and featuring a terrific assemblage of players to flesh out the cast of colorful characters that surrounded Bill's violent, dissipated life, this Walter Hill film is a smart and curious mix of John Ford legendry and Robert Altman revisionism. Set primarily in the mudhole, frontier towns of the Plains states in the 1800s, "Wild Bill" most resembles in tone and outlook "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". With its golden, browned hues, virulent imagery and coarse textures -- pinewood caskets, roaming pigs, unwashed Yahoos -- "Wild Bill" scrapes the glamor off the dimestore novelizing of Wild Bill's "legendary life."
In Hill's shrewd, alternately romantic and unremittingly realistic scenario, we see "the stuff of legends" is not exactly constituted by valor, selflessness or decency. Certainly, with his flowing locks and shooting prowess, Bill was a coot to be reckoned with, though not exactly charismatic. As we see in this squinty, hard-eyed homage, he was, at heart, a cold-blooded, depressive wastrel. Although Hill's screenplay includes ample and amusing apologia for Bill's baser qualities through the the voice-over of a witty, educated Englishman (John Hurt), who is enamored with Bill, we see repeatedly that Bill's actions and motivations are cruel, heartless and reprehensible.
As Hickok, Bridges, once again, gives a terrific, wart-and-all portrayal, never undercoating the gunslinger with any cheap, heart-tugging theatrics (HR 11/17).
NICK OF TIME
Paramount's "Nick of Time" is a fleck of formula, but it's a tight, solidly crafted thriller from producer-director John Badham that should win solid support from teens and twenties at the boxoffice. Starring Johnny Depp, "Nick" should be a winning pick in time on the rental circuit.
An ordinary-man-in-jeopardy tale goosed with a ticking clock, "Nick" is an elemental genre piece with Depp starring as, basically, the man in the gray flannel suit. A somewhat nebbish accountant, Warren (Depp) and his young daughter arrive at L.A.'s Union State with some distressing baggage, pyschologically speaking: They've just come from the funeral of Depp's ex-wife, who is the mother of his daughter. Like Cary Grant in a number of Hitchcock chillers, Warren is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, picked out by two desperado assassins with appropriate nomenclatures, Mr. Smith (Chrisopher Walken) and Ms. Jones (Roma Maffia). They kidnap the pair from the busy station and lay down their ultimatum to Warren -- kill a female guest in the nearby Bonaventure Hotel within the next hour or never see your daughter again.
Although Patrick Sheane Duncan's scenario offers little in the way of surprises for even a moderately sophisticated moviegoer, it's a taut story with sympathetic underpinnings. What the story may lack in sophistication is nicely juiced by Badham's kinetic direction.
Depp is credible as the ordinary decent man who must reach within to save the day. Admittedly, his physicality and somewhat subdued performance are both pluses and minuses: He's definitely solid as an ordinary man but ultimately lacks the panache and adrenaline-pumped resourcefulness of predecessors in the genre -- Grant, and Harrison Ford, among others (HR 11/22).
1 item from 1995
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