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Wild Bill Hickok, famed lawman and gunman of the Old West, is haunted by his past and his reputation. He is loved by, but cannot love, Calamity Jane. Dogging his trail is young Jack McCall, who blames Bill for abandoning the boy's mother and destroying her life. McCall has sworn to kill Bill, and Bill's ghosts, his failing eyesight, and his fondness for opium may make McCall's task easier. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Muddy, angry, two-fisted tale of revenge in the Old West...
Historians may scoff, but Walter Hill's "Wild Bill" is an absorbing and intriguing western with elegiac overtures yet much of the emphasis placed on the battles. Jeff Bridges does a fine job as scruffy, mangy, weathered James Butler Hickok in the 1870s Midwest, getting into brutal fights while doing nothing more than standing at a bar (John Hurt's narration tells us, "Being 'Wild' Bill was in itself a profession."). Ellen Barkin plays Calamity Jane like a lovestruck toughie who clucks behind Hickok, waiting for a commitment; David Arquette is Jack McCall, a young man defending the honor of his mother, whom Hickok loved and left. Occasionally, director Hill hits a stumbling block (there's an inconsequential bit with Keith Carradine as Buffalo Bill Cody which disconnects the mood, and also a black-and-white flashback filmed in high-contrast where Hickok attempts to talk sensibly with a no-nonsense Indian tribe). Still, the hand and gun bouts are fully charged with adrenaline, and there's a genuine feel for these sad, meandering people that recalls strong sections from other westerns, particularly "McCabe and Mrs. Miller". A bumpy film, but not a bad one at all. **1/2 from ****
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