When a Las Vegas performer-turned-snitch named Buddy Israel decides to turn state's evidence and testify against the mob, it seems that a whole lot of people would like to make sure he's no longer breathing.
John Smith is an amoral gunslinger in the days of Prohibition. On the lam from his latest (unspecified) exploits, he happens upon the town of Jericho, Texas. Actually, calling Jericho a town would be too generous--it has become more like a ghost town, since two warring gangs have 'driven off all the decent folk.' Smith sees this as an opportunity to play both sides off against each other, earning himself a nice piece of change as a hired gun. Despite his strictly avowed mercenary intentions, he finds himself risking his life for his, albeit skewed, sense of honor.... Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Joe Monday shoots Doyle with a circa 1848 Colt Walker blackpowder revolver. The .44 caliber Walker was the most powerful handgun made, until the advent of the Smith & Wesson .357 magnum in 1935. See more »
In opening scenes we see "Mr. Smith" coming into town and obviously sweating from the south Texas heat. In subsequent scenes we see gang members in wool suits and wool overcoats. See more »
It's a funny thing. No matter how low you sink there's still a right and wrong. You always end up choosing. You go one way so you can try to live with yourself. You go the other, you'd still be walkin' around, but you're dead and you don't even know it.
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Brutal, masculine entertainment handicapped by one flawed sequence.
This brutal Walter Hill pic has one of the best beatings ever burned to celluloid. It is so brutal, in fact, that the victim (Bruce Willis) looks like Jason from "Friday The 13th" once his attackers get done with him. Even better, he then lurches around like Rondo Hatten in "The Creep Man" plotting his revenge.
The film's final action scene is an awful, indescribable mess, and I have always wondered why Hill and usual editor Freeman Davies opted to construct it this way. It is a shootout presented in a series of dissolves, and it just doesn't work. Hill has always been an adroit director and editor of action, and his fine work has a precision to it that this sequence lacks. Perhaps the camera negatives were damaged or the studio ordered a truncation. Whatever the reasons are for this flawed sequence, it, unfortunately, turns a great movie into a good movie.
The opening sequence, replete with Ry Cooder's smooth scoring, is poetic and beautiful; Willis's arrival in town is directed with skill and energy; and cudos are also in order for the scene in which the first shot is fired and a stuntman is sent flying through a door into the dusty street outside.
Christopher Walken is fantastic as the violent enforcer Hickey, and it is great to see David Patrick Kelly back on the screen as the malicious Doyle.
There are many standout sequences and much to enjoy. Willis's solitary siege of a brothel, for example, is classic Hill stuff in terms of its staging, unapologetic brutality and superb cutting.
That the film is a remake of a remake is of no consequence to me. It is still a rousing, spare piece of masculine entertainment with a whiff of Peckinpah, a dash of Kurosawa, and a splatter of Corbucci.
That ain't no bad thing.
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