Ellen, an unknown female gunslinger rides into a small, dingy and depressing prairie town with a secret as to her reason for showing up. Shortly after her arrival, a local preacher, Cort, is thrown through the saloon doors while townfolk are signing up for a gun competition. The pot is a huge sum of money and the only rule: that you follow the rules of the man that set up the contest, Herod. Herod is also the owner, leader, and "ruler" of the town. Seems he's arranged this little gun-show-off so that the preacher (who use to be an outlaw and rode with Herod) will have to fight again. Cort refuses to ever use a gun to kill again and Herod, acknowledging Cort as one of the best, is determined to alter this line of thinking ... even if it gets someone killed ...Written by
"The Quick and the Dead" is a "splatter Western," directed by horror vet Sam Raimi (whose latest, as of this writing, is "Spider-Man," but who cut his teeth on the "Evil Dead" trilogy). It's set in the oh-so-ironically named lawless town of Redemption, a haven of grotesques that gives us an idea what the wild West would've looked like if had been painted, not by Frederic Remington, but by Heironymus Bosch.
In a surfeit of Biblical nomenclature, the town's mayor/owner/capo is named Herod (Gene Hackman at his oiliest, complete with bad hair). Into town there rides a mysterious stranger, not Clint Eastwood this time but Sharon Stone. I'm not the world's biggest Stone fan, but this movie and "Total Recall" indicate that she has her uses in kick-butt action roles that make no demands on her limited thespianic skills. As gunslinger Ellen, she's doubly armed--with a six-shooter, and with an axe to grind; even her "inner child" packs a gun. She enters Herod's to-the-death fast-draw tournament, a no-win, no-exit, potentially no-survivors affair, with an agenda on her mind other than just winning the prize money.
This is an overripe, over-wrought movie, but it mostly works. Raimi all but erases the slim wall between the horror and Western genres: Redemption is another Transylvanian village of simple peasants lorded over by by an evil baron, and the atmosphere--palpably oppressive and claustrophobic--could be cut with a knife. Leonardo di Caprio and veteran character actors Lance Henriksen and Roberts Blossom effectively round out the cast, and the action scenes--exaggerated, mythic, often darkly humorous--deliver. If you're more of a horror fan than a Western fan, this may be the Western for you.
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