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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>
I've been checking out the comments on this film and they seem to be in line with most of the other reactions I've heard. It's important to say up front that this is not a film for Western fans. It's not a film for action fans. It's not for history buffs who care only about the facts. It's not a film for people who want to see a good story told simply.
Wild Bill is one of the richest and most disturbing films ever made about the American West. It shows us a complicated man without trying to explain or rationalize the contradictions in his character. He's capable of love, but he also commits acts of brutal violence. He cares for his friends but he holds them all at arm's length. And he feels compelled to play the part of the living legend to the end, come what may.
I suspect that Walter Hill chose this subject because he identified strongly with Wild Bill himself. But whether or not this is true, the contradictions in Hickok's character are a part of this country's character. Hill was lucky to have Jeff Bridges in the lead. It's one of his finest performances. Though Wild Bill doesn't voice doubts about his life out loud, Bridges' face shows us that he doesn't understand himself the reasons for many of his actions.
The story is not told in chronological order, but the organization of the sequences is not haphazard. In fact it's beautifully thought out. This is not a film for everybody, but I think it deserves a lot more attention than it's gotten so far. I feel like fans of Walter Hill's work will see the same thing I do: a beautiful and haunting meditation on why this country is the way it is.
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