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A Psychedelic Look At 'Wild Bill'
ccthemovieman-121 February 2006
If there was ever a psychedelic western movie, this has to be it. It's so bizarre, at least compared to most westerns, that it was tough for me to write this review. I stopped and re-started several times. Where to start?

I just found it great fun, an entertaining film that's always a kick to view, and what more you can ask? Being someone who is very much into visuals, great cinematography and unique approaches to camera-work, this film provided all of that and more, such as an interesting story with whacked-out characters.

I love narration and John Hurt's description of the goings-on here was just great to hear. He played "Charlie," an Englishman with a gentleman's vocabulary that was in stark contrast to the hardened outlaws, led by 'Wild Bill' Hickok himself, played by Jeff Bridges. Ellen Barkin plays "Calamity Jane," and few women of the 1980s and '90s played foul-mouthed, hard-but-sexy women as convincingly as Barkin.

In addition to Hurt, Bridges and Barkin, other fun characters included "California Joe," Hickok's gravel-voiced friend who doesn't say much but when he does, you hear some some of the longest sentences ever uttered. Daid Arquette plays a very strange villain, the man who became famous for shooting Wild Bill. He acts strange and talks as if he has a mouthful of marbles. James Remar, another mean-looking tough guy, is a hired killer. Christina Applegate, Bruce Dern, Margoe Gortner, Keith Carradine and assorted other characters all add to this strange tale, strange in its telling and even stranger in its visual style.

Some of the film is in flashback, which is seen in startling black-and-white and mainly features Diane Lane, who is flat-out gorgeous and maybe the most intriguing person in the film. One of the flashbacks has the film deliberately overexposed with wild dream-like images.

No western "purist" admits to liking this but I love the genre and I put this near the top of my list of favorite westerns. So, sue me!
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Better than average western, with some very nice touches.
tigerrick9 April 2007
I wasn't expecting much from this one, but Walter Hill's direction credit during the opening title sequence sucked me in - and I was glad it did.

A very capable cast and an interesting cinematic style gave this film a unique flavor, although some of the characters bordered on unbelievable at times.

Loved the interaction between Wild Bill and Calamity Jane on the saloon table, although the conversation seemed too modern for the late 1800s. But overall, the film was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, especially when compared with some of the lesser films available at the time.
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As Close To History As One Gets For 'Wild Bill' Hickok
jrgreenmd-130 August 2003
Making a movie about a legend is a tricky situation; it is worse when the pages of history are filled with myth. There is no doubt that 'Wild Bill' Hickok was a lawman, gunman and Western legend. There is the problem. He was so famous that numerous sources sought to make their fortunes on stories embellished for sales. The most notable was the "dime novel." The makers of this movie did as good a job as anyone has it trying to tell the true story of this legend.

There are scenes not found in Bill's history, but they are historical for the time. The classic Western model is not in play. Indians, Chinese, black cowboys, ... etc are muti-dimensional characters. The added scenes flow the story and add depth. Even with numerous flash backs the story flows well.

Jeff Bridges as "James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok" and Ellen Barkin " as "Calamity Jane" do great jobs with the main characters. Bridges while in costume actually resembles the pictures of the real "Wild Bill." The romantic relationship between these Western notables and its development is well done. The interplay sets this movie apart from most Westerns, and adds appeal to those who might not be Western fans.

Two of the best pieces of acting are by actors with smaller parts in the film. Watch for Keith Carradine as "Buffalo Bill Cody" and John Hurt as "Charley Prince," Bill's friend and the character narrating the film.

James Gammon (I) does a good character role as "California Joe."

If you like Western history, this is a great film. If you want a classic Western flick and non-stop action, you may find it slow. For anything more accurate you'll need to go the library; to date, this is the best film on Hickok.
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Walter Hill got it right with "Deadwood"
gvit-25 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This could have been great, but there are two big problems, Ellen Barkin cast as Calamity Jane, and worst of all, the idea that Jack Macall couldn't bring himself to pull the trigger when he TWICE had the opportunity. Hill's "Long Riders" is miles ahead of this film, although this is not all bad, Bridge's performance is excellent as are many other supporting roles. I found the John Hurt character a typical John Hurt 19th century character which he did best in Cimino's "Heaven's Gate". Here he takes the place of real life Charlie Utter for reasons I don't understand. Barkin is so miscast that it almost hurts, her imitation of an southern accent is so close to a crime against humanity that she should at least pay a fine, and no woman looking like Ms. Barkin living in a town like Deadwood would be as clean and pretty as she always seems to be. Her bubbly, sweetness is also more than misplaced. You can bet your gold nugget that the studio needed a love interest who would show her birthday suit, I would well hope that Hill was not responsible for her character or role. Hickock's killer is a much more believable character in the excellent HBO "Deadwood, here he's a whiny, indecisive jerk which makes it hard to believe that he was raised by the woman who captured Hickock's heart long before. Lastly, the set design in this film was too "westerny", the bars are polished, the woodwork is excellent, the furnishings are expensive, etc. Deadwood was a gold mining camp that sprung up over night, this looks like a standard movie town for westerns despite the muddy streets. The excellent book by Dexter is done a disservice by this film and it is quite interesting to see what Hill did with the same story 9 years later in the pilot episode of "Deadwood". Watching both is a learning experience.
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A great piece of infotainment about a true legend of the Wild West.
RJBurke19425 May 2007
The Wild West grew out of myth and partially true folklore. Hollywood grew for the same reasons. Put the two together to construct a story about the last days of Wild Bill and what do you get? Well…you get something that's exciting, brutal, nasty and short – and very little of it truthful.

Walter Hill is one of Tinsel Town's better producer/directors, no question; and his experience at producing great thrillers (like the Alien series) serves him (and the viewer) well. Because this is a thrilling tale: of a man who was in fact a legend in his own time (like Buffalo Bill, Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy and many others), and of a man who obviously didn't relate too well with people in general. Maybe Wild Bill thought that he'd been dealt a raw deal from day one? Who knows...?

And that's the upside of this narrative as well as its Achilles Heel – because if you read the history of Wild Bill, you'll find that most of this film is pure fiction. Trouble is, most of what you read about Wild Bill is pure fiction, also. And the sources I researched admit it: nobody knows the real truth about how Wild Bill died EXCEPT he did die while playing poker in a saloon. Beyond that, all else, it appears, is up for grabs – which means that any writer/producer can develop a story that provides a reasonable probability of what might have happened.

So, don't pay any heed to reality in this film, beyond the very detailed settings, props, costumes, accents, language – the general mise-en-scene. The story, some of which is told in flashback, is generally fast-paced, with the possible exception of when Bill visits the Chinese opium dens in Deadwood for some light relief, shall I say? But, those episodes also give the director/cinematography the opportunity to play around with camera angles, shimmering scenes, and such like.

What I particularly liked about this movie were the scenes of mid-nineteenth century small towns across USA. Those images compare very well with genuine photos I've seen of that time, particularly those of Deadwood. So, hats off to the production team for those flawless settings, arguably the best I've seen on film to date. In fact, this film is worth seeing for that alone.

In contrast, there's a major error that is just unforgivable, considering the overall standard of the production: in the final battle scene between Wild Bill and five tough bounty hunters, Bill shoots them all dead with his two revolvers, both of which looked like 1858 or 1861 Remingtons. Those guns are six-shooters. In the gun battle, Wild Bill shoots at least sixteen shots, and maybe eighteen, all without reloading! Don't worry – I checked it by counting those shots, again and again, while going through the battle slowly. What a shame that goof wasn't caught before the film was released...

However, the cast is great, particularly Jeff Bridges and John Hurt (as the fictional character, Charley Prince, invented for narrative purposes), both of whom are ably supported by Ellen Barkin as Calamity Jane and David Arquette as Jack McCall. Jeff Bridges must be highlighted for special mention: his costumes and general manner look stunningly true to life when compared with real photos of that long dead gunfighter.

As a piece of history, forget it. As rip-snorting entertainment, go see it, especially if you love the Western genre. Highly recommended.
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That's the spirit!
poe42613 September 2002
"The hardest steel is forged in the hottest fires..." The Wild West in the years following The Civil War must've been very close to the West as Walter Hill envisions it here; if not in fact, then most certainly in tone. Life was cheap: pick up any one of the magazines or books devoted to same and take a gander at the bodies on display in storefronts and on boardwalks (or laid out in the sun, or dangling from the limbs of trees). The man who walked away from a gunfight was the man who got there first with the most. He what hesitated, was lost. Jeff Bridges as WILD BILL is a man with a hair-trigger; he HAD to be. (Otherwise, he would've been BELLY-UP BILL, and a lot less interesting.) He literally fights- with fists or with guns- at the drop of a hat. Not the kind of man you take lightly. He drowns his sorrows in booze and pipes and the black and white flashbacks (with the camera canted just enough to suggest an off-kilter dream state) are great. See this one because you like hard-hitting, no-nonsense westerns or because you prefer superior craftsmanship- but SEE it; to miss it would be to pass up one of the finest westerns to ever come thunderin' down the trail.
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Muddy, angry, two-fisted tale of revenge in the Old West...
moonspinner5531 May 2008
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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An Unrecognized Masterpiece
Torchy7 August 2001
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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What makes a hero?
galestreger16 March 2002
Is it the will to fight? Is it the fear of failure? Quoting one of the most important lines in this movie: "Wild Bill had chosen a way of life, that demanded he´d walk down the muddy mainstreet, instead of using the sidewalks along the houses.", one begins to realize that legend has its price. Now, it may not be a historical correct version of the life and death of the great Wild Bill, but it´s a lesson on what happens when the your name gets to carry you, instead of the other way around. -and Jeff Bridges is simply superb as the uncompromising and stubborn gunslinger. Great Movie!!!
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Loved the Movie, Would Probably Love the Man
Bob-4529 April 2005
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickock: Soldier, buffalo hunter, lawman, adventurer, wastrel, whoremonger, opium user, syphilis-carrier, brawler. Wild Bill wasn't just worldly, he was world-class worldly. Yet there was a boyishly but noble, almost sensitive charm to this raging bar fight of a man. His murder by the hand of a coward smacks of Greek tragedy, though he was spared the final indignities of disease and self-abuse. "Wild Bill" pretty well accurately chronicles the life of the man. Walter Hill has beautifully established the enigmatic poetry of him. Jeff Bridges perfectly embodies his spirit, while his friends, "Calamity Jane" (Ellen Barkin), Charley Prince (John Hurt) and "California Joe" (James Gammon) provide letter perfect foils, thematic analyzers and comic relief. With the success of "Deadwood" on HBO, "Wild Bill" would probably be a deserved hit with audiences now. At the time, a movie whose gaminess made a Leone western look positively Disneyish by comparison was probably too off-putting for audiences. Now, it's time to examine the beauty of the performances amidst the accurate ugliness of actual conditions in mining towns like Deadwood in 1876. This is Barkin's best performance, Gammon's most charming and Hurt's most beautiful line readings. Who could ever forget the haunting look on the face of Song Lew (Karen Huie), proprietress of the opium den after saving the doped out Bill. Or Bill's disgust with the "opium of the masses" Marjoe Gortner (himself a former evangelical preacher) doles out to the suckers in the form of religion. How the movie beautifully integrates the old joke that "the best way to find a whore is follow the church bells" into the storyline. Christina Applegate is even very effective in her peripheral role, with her baby face and voluptuous body, a child whose eyes already reflect a soul dead from surrender to his conditions. "Wild Bill" is strong stuff indeed. If I can fault writer-director Walter Hill (and I believe it is still too soon to render a final judgment on this movie), I would fault his decision to shoot the flashbacks as erratic dreams, with unstable camera and black-and-white. I'd have chosen one OR the other, not both. No matter, "Wild Bill" will continue to haunt me, as great films do. for years to come. I just wish he'd added at least one flourish so effectively used in "The White Buffalo," another less well made, but impressive movie about Hickock. That would have been to include the scene of Bill passing the mountain of bleached Buffalo bones. For Bill's passing was perhaps a fitting climax to the death of that era; and, with it, the death of the "American West" of legend.

I give "Wild Bill" a "9".
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Nice Movie but historically VERY inaccurate
malcolm-13515 October 2006
Now I'm not going to go into a tirade how inaccurate the movie was historically, but you'd think with the cast they had paid damned good money to take part in the movie that they would have found a way to tell Wild Bill's story in a more factual yet exciting way that keeps the nuance of the Romantic Western Period in tact.

The gun fights were incredible, the props and backgrounds were amazing and the portrayal of the old Deadwood mining camp were simply Breath taking.

I personally enjoyed how the movie would weave in and out of Wild Bill's past through his opium induced dreams... the characters were very believable but the story just didn't add up to the facts that surrounded Wild Bill's death.

I would also take exception to the HBO series Deadwood concerning Wild Bill's death also, it's a shame that somebody in the movie business, ANYBODY, would come up with a more accurate portrayal of the man, his life and his untimely death.

With all that being said, it was a beautiful movie visually.
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Historically it is also completely inaccurate!!!
ktgifts23 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Wild Bill Hickok did not have sexual relations with Calamity Jane. They didn't know each other until they road the stagecoach to Deadwood. Bill & Calamity were not caught in a sexual act by Jack McCall nor did Jack have paid help in order to corner Bill. It is speculated that Jack McCall shot Bill over losing at a card game the night before. At Jack's trail, he claimed it was because Bill had killed his brother. But, Jack only had 2 sisters. Bill was a married man in March of 1876 and that is never mentioned. The story also eludes that Bill was losing his eyesight possibly because of all the womanizing he had done. Not true. He had glaucoma which is not a sexual illness. The only thing that was accurate was that he was a marshal at Abilene, Kansas and that he was in Deadwood on 8/2/1876.
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Was it really that ugly?
tmwest3 November 2004
Walter Hill tried to tell the story of Will Bill from a new, different angle, and for that he deserves credit. But good intentions do not make a good film and Hill goes terribly wrong. One must remember that if Hickok is still a legend in our actual days, and a respected legend, contrary to Custer and Buffalo Bill who did not maintain their appeal, he must have had some charisma, in other words some magic, either him or what happened in his life. That is what the film fails to capture. Trying to be more realistic and showing us the town of Deadwood always full of mud, and Wild Bill as a crazy looking guy with a long hair an a beard that does not allow any expression to his face, all this film does is to show the ugliness of all that and at that point we can ask ourselves that if it really was that ugly why do we still talk about it today? In his search for realism Hill forgot the soul of the story, and the soul is as much part of reality as is the physical part. In that respect, De Mille's 'The Plainsman' is more real than 'Wild Bill' besides being a much better film. Hill showed a lot of talent in 'The Long Riders', but in 'Wild Bill' he threw it all away.
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Great Gunslinger Shooting Action
Dark Swede24 November 2000
Great gunfight scenes and exquisite costuming highlight this fast-paced story of Wild Bill Hickok, man and myth. The film illuminates some of the most exciting and legendary characters of the untamed American West. One of the better Wild Bill portraits on film. Remember.. "You shouldn't oughta touch a man's hat!"
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A pile of horse s**T
rusty132522 August 2013
Out of every movie i have ever seen based on a legendary old west figure this movie was the largest pile of horse s**T i have ever seen.There is not 1/100 of fact base in this film i have spent 25 years of my life researching legendary western figures from Wyatt Earp to the back shooter Pat Garret and believe me they have made some stinkers but this is no doubt the worst pile of lies and misleads i ever saw. I WISH THERE WAS A RATING LESS THEN 1 BECAUSE THIS MOVIE WOULD RATE A - 10.Not to mention very bad acting from second rate actors.Walter Hill directed my favorite movie of all times the 1979 cult classic THE WARRIORS {in which he also used James Remar }so i expected better from him.This movie is a disgrace to a otherwise great director.
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wild bilge
rcastl23351 September 2009
I first saw this in the theater and found it forgettable. But I thought I'd watch again since it pops up a lot on cable. Now I believe it's too awful to be forgettable. This is a criminally bad film, easily the worst of director Walter Hill's spotty career, although it does seem to have pointed him towards the cable series Deadwood. That's another crime for another day, however. Except for some few expertly staged fight scenes and the performances of Jeff Bridges and Diane Lane, this is a low point in several usually reliable actor's careers. John Hurt is simply a windy fool, ditto James Gammon. Bruce Dern yells (yawn). And Ellen Barkin's Calamity Jane makes me long for Abby Dalton's performance in The Plainsman. Loud, broad, witless, with the worst Southern accent in the long history of bad Southern accents on film, this represents the nadir of her career. It's the only bad performance I've ever seen her give and I still can't imagine what she was thinking. Possibly the only way to enjoy this film is to turn it on, leave the room and, when you hear the sound of raised voices and gunfire, rush back in. Or you could just rent The Plainsman.
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Overambitous but disappointing
Hunt25463 September 2010
Most reviews seem to look at this through the prism of "Deadwood," which seems unfair as the elongated TV format allows for far more character development. So to point out that the characters in "Wild Bill" aren't as-- well, you get the picture. Viewed alone, the movie deserves praise for performance, set design, a sense of period dialogue and historical accuracy in visual recreations. Yes, WB really did wear Navy Colts backwards, cavalry-style, in a red sash; yes, he did have greasy lanks of hair and wear a big floppy hat, a thick tie and a vest that didn't match his jacket which didn't match his pants. And for about an hour, I think the movie is pretty amusing. But when it sinks into Deadwood over its last hour, it appears to use too much of the stagey dialogue of one of its sources, a play by someone named Thomas Babe. At this point, it pretty much abandons history which is bad enough, but also cinematic fluency, of which Hill is a master: it becomes static, talky, dreary, and completely loses its momentum. And someone--Babe?--made the decision to give the McCall-Hickcock dynamic an Oedipal overtone--he's the "son" of a woman once loved , then abandoned, by Hickcock. This is an attempt at coherency, to bring the murder into some sort of classic framework. Yeah, swell, however: McCall was much older, a buffalo hunter who'd lost dough to Wild Bill the night before. He didn't stand for the abused son, he stood for the randomness of frontier violence, where booze, pride, stupidity and a culture of pointless aggression could easily spell an ambush murder like McCall's. THAT, to me, would not only have been more accurate, but more fluent and a better movie.
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Someone should put a bullet in this one
Samiam325 August 2010
Perhaps I love Deadwood too much; the critically praised, HBO series for which director Walter Hill appropriately won an Emmy for the pilot. I clearly set my expectations a little too high of this one, which predates the Deadwood series by eight years or so. Coming from Walter Hill, the man behind the Warriors and The Long Riders, there is no way that Wild Bill should have been this sloppy.

His portrayal of the life and death of James Butler Hickok results in a motion picture that self-destructs in spectacular fashion. It is vastly underwritten, poorly acted, edited as if it were a labyrinth of jungle vines to be cut down by a machete, and on top of that the movie is also severely anti-climactic.

All that Hill gets right is that parts of the movie are well shot, and he is able to capture the look of the times on screen, but on the pages, it is a different matter. The opening twenty minutes (give or take) are especially excruciating. What we see is almost a joke, totally amateurish and more oriented towards obnoxious gunplay than character illumination. I felt like I was watching kiddies play cowboys and Indians on the street with little wooden pistols.

Jeff Bridges portrayal of Hickok is devoid of talent and humanity. It is so obviously a performance, with hammy delivery, poor timing, and failure to capture Bill's misery and self loathing and his love for Calamity Jane.

When all is said and done, Wild Bill is a dud. It is clumsy and careless, and is easily one of the worst westerns I have ever seen.
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Forget facts and enjoy the cinema
JuguAbraham11 November 2004
Walter Hill has based his screenplay on two literary works by two individuals: Paul Dexter's book and Thomas Babe's play. Hill is a good screenplay-writer himself. I recommend viewers to view the film as an example of a good screenplay and not be unduly worried about facts.

The structure of the narrative is simplified by the sepia and black-and-white flashbacks by the director. Unlike other directors, Hill chooses to uses tilted shots for most of these flashbacks, suggesting a "colored" viewpoint of what is shown.

The film can be dismissed easily as a crass action western--but this film looks at bravura narcissism (opening shots of shooting a glass on top of a dog's head), a man who refuses to be tied down to relationships with women but is friendly with men, stupid reactions to knocking his hat, etc. The heroics may belong to the mustachioed men rather than the clean-shaven but the film has more to offer than hairy faces.

The casting of John Hurt, Bruce Dern and Ellen Barkin is commendable--they provide fascinating screen time that adds to the credibility. Hurt and Barkin who open the film carries the film even though Jeff Bridges proves to be a credible lead player but he is no great thespian.

The film ultimately belongs to Hill and art director Dan Olexiewicz, with the atmosphere changes from bright sun to slushy streets--that strangely keeps pace with the characters. Hill develops the characters slowly through filmed flashback and dream sequences (visit of Wild Bill to the insane asylum, the conversations with Red Indians, are examples) rather than the spoken word of the main character and that contributes to the feeling that most characters are not fleshed out. They are well developed, in an unusual way. This is not great cinema but above average stuff--a good way to describe Hill's body of work.
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A disappointment
JantheMan330 July 2001
I was excited when this film was first announced, because I've always been fascinated with the character of Wild Bill Hickok. But the movie is a disaster. It is presented as a historical account of Hickok's life, and it is completely inaccurate. I can see embellishing the truth a bit for a movie, but it was just done totally wrong in this movie. The only good thing about it is that Jeff Bridges looked almost exactly like the real Wild Bill...
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The Legendary Wild Bill
bkoganbing19 June 2008
In Wild Bill we get to see one of the best characterizations of the legendary western character. Jeff Bridges joins a pantheon of great players who've essayed the part of the marshal of Abilene, Kansas. Folks like William S. Hart, Gary Cooper, Roy Rogers, Guy Madison, Bill Elliott, Forrest Tucker, and Charles Bronson have all played Hickok with varying degrees of success.

Some of these people have played Hickok more or less nobly as the script and their screen persona permitted. Someone like Roy Rogers you know without seeing the film had Hickok be a straight arrow. The real Wild Bill was someone who was as tough as he had to be to enforce law and order in a wild and woolly town like Abilene, Kansas circa 1870-1871 when Hickok kept the peace there.

Among those other actors who played Hickok also includes Jeff's father Lloyd Bridges who did it in an hour television drama on the Great Adventure series. I saw that years ago and I wish I could remember more of it so I could compare father and son. The part I best recall is the famous story of Hickok accidentally shooting his own deputy who made the fatal mistake of coming up behind him too quietly and after he'd just shot one of Texas's rowdier cowboys. It's part of the Hickok legend and shown here as well.

Of course the manner of Hickok's death has also entered into folklore with wide and varying accounts of the kind of man Hickok's killer Jack McCall was. He was probably closer to the sneaky rat that Cecil B. DeMille had Porter Hall play him as in The Plainsman. Here he's shown as a drunk and scared kid played by David Arquette much in the same manner as Bob Ford was played by Casey Affleck last year. Arquette does well in the role.

Ellen Barkin is cast as Calamity Jane and while she's as tough as the famous frontierswoman, she's way too good looking. Too bad Louis B. Mayer never thought of using Marie Dressler for the part back in the day. Even she was a little too femme for the part.

The film is done in Citizen Kane style, narrated by John Hurt who is a close friend of Hickok in the story. It's a pretty good western, coming out when those are few and far between.
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warrenslist11 July 2018
There were two Great Westerns made in the early 1990's. One was Tombstone which I wasn't expecting to be Great. I mean....how many ways can The Gunfight at The OK Correl be told? So I ignored Tombstone until it came out in Video. Big mistake. Great Movie. Val Kilmer is the best Doc Holiday ever. As with Shane, it may never be in a theater near me again. So now Wild Bill comes out? Better see it in a Big Screen Theater. I did one weekend evening. Beautiful. The only problem was it was the first time I had seen a movie in Downtown Detroit. There weren't many of us in The Theater, but many who were there were carrying on with a narrative of their own. 'Look out behind you Wild Bill, he's got a gun....'someone said. 'Hump her Bill' said someone else! So...I went back one weekday afternoon and appreciated Wild Bill much more. Now I own it and watch it often. With Westerns, I don't look for 'factually correct', rather I look for Great Performances and Storytelling from people who clearly love Westerns as I do. Don't miss Wild Bill.
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Deserves a Better Reputation
Michael_Elliott18 February 2018
Wild Bill (1995)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges) comes into Deadwood where he meets up with his old flame Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin) and has a pesky young kid (David Arquette) threatening to kill him. While staying at Deadwood, Hickok begins to feel that his questionable past is starting to haunt him.

Walter Hill's WILD BILL pretty much took a beating when it was originally released. The critics ripped it apart and movie goers pretty much stayed away turning it into one of the year's biggest bombs. I avoided watching the film due to its reputation but I finally got around to the movie and I must admit that I found it to be incredibly entertaining on a number of levels.

I think what I enjoyed most was the style of the storytelling. The film starts off like a greatest hits package as we get several small scenes showing some of the more notorious moments from Hickok's life. I really loved how Hill made this work as we basically get to see what made the man a legend and then we get to the current story of him struggling with his past while at the same time having to deal with this young man who wants to kill him.

Not only does the story work extremely well but we're also given a terrific cast. Bridges is downright terrific in the lead role and I must say that he's a lot better here than he was in TRUE GRIT. In fact, you could make the argument that this contains some of the actor's greatest moments on the screen, which is saying a lot. Barkin is also extremely good in her role of the love interest and Arquette is also good in his part. We've also got a great supporting cast including Bruce Dern, Keith Carradine, Diane Lane, Christina Applegate, James Gammon and John Hurt.

As you'd expect from a Hill movie, WILD BILL is well-made and contains some great style and especially when it comes to the violence. The shoot outs are handled extremely well and they are so well-filmed that you can't help but get caught up with them. The personal story of Bill and his demons also work extremely well. I'm really not sure why WILD BILL was such a disaster at the box office and with critics but the film is certainly worth watching.
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Gritty Western
kirbylee70-599-5261799 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I've loved nearly every movie associated with writer/director Walter Hill. I still consider STREETS OF FIRE to be an undiscovered gem that needs revisited. It seems at some point Hollywood lost faith in Hill and began to provide him less opportunity to make a big budgeted film. The last to receive much ballyhoo was Sylvester Stallone's BULLET TO THE HEAD which didn't do as well as other films the star released but was still plenty entertaining. At least we have the opportunity to watch classic Hill films on disc. Last year saw the releases of the classic SOUTHERN COMFORT. Now we have the chance to see WILD BILL, one of his last forays into Hollywood film making.

Based on the life of Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges) the story focuses on the last few weeks of his life while at the same time interjecting moments from his past. Rather than use the straight forward timeline to tell his story, Hill uses this to great effect here, showing us the end result of Hickok's life rather than simply glorifying him start to finish.

Narrated by Hickok's friend Charley Prince (John Hurt) we start off with Hickok during his buffalo hunting days but quickly find him entering Deadwood, a gold mining town whose rough ways suit the famed lawman and gunslinger. Setting up shop at the Number 10 saloon he finds long time love Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin) there among the rabble. Theirs is an unusual relationship, physical at times and more a matter of location than having the chance at long time matrimonial goals. Jane will always love Hickok but his lifestyle leaves him unwilling to settle down.

At this point in time Hickok's legend precedes him wherever he goes. But his past is catching up to him. Dealing with pain and sight problems brought on by glaucoma, he can still shoot, play cards and carouse with the best of them though the end result is not what it once was. Hickok tends to drink away the pain he carries with him, both physical and mental from the long list of men he's killed and those he has wronged. Many of these are on view in several of the flashback sequences filmed in black and white to good effect.

Into his life walks another memento of his past, a young man named Jack McCall (David Arquette), who intends to kill Hickok. Rather than shoot him dead, Hickok knocks the young man about and tells him he will allow him to continue living and to abandon his goal. It seems that McCall is set on doing the deed, a revenge for the abandonment of his mother Sarah Moore (Diane Lane) by Hickok years ago as well as the shooting of a man who would have been his stepfather.

What Hill does here is deconstruct the hero we've grown to know throughout the years without painting a terrible picture of the man at the same time. Rather he is a product of the times he was alive in, a raw and untamed west that produced more killers turned lawmen than we can count. Hickok was good with a gun and suffered no fools. And yet his life was filled with minor slights that ended in gunplay. It is also a depiction of a man with health damage caused from frequent visitations to ladies of the night. This is not the squeaky clean image of the 50s and 60s but a realistic look at the man.

Bridges turns in a well styled performance here, providing the swaggering bravado of the character when needed and showing those moments of inner turmoil with his acting skills rather than the spoken word. You can tell, for instance, that Hickok loves Jane but that his heart remains held by the now gone Sarah Moore. You can see in his face that while he is skilled at killing a man he takes no pleasure in it.

The rest of the cast does an amazing job as well and a number of faces familiar to Hill fans pop up in various roles, among them Stoney Jackson and James Remar. Christina Applegate makes an appearance as do both Bruce Dern and Keith Carradine. But it is Bridges center stage that most will remember from this film.

The late 90s had a number of old west movies made that should have revived the genre yet for some reason failed to do so. Wyatt Earp and DANCES WITH WOLVES with Kevin Costner, TOMBSTONE with Kurt Russell, UNFORGIVEN with Clint Eastwood and THE QUICK AND THE DEAD with Russell Crowe, Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone were all made during this time period. One can only hope that while it never kicked off at the time that perhaps one day the western will rise from the ashes and become popular again. Until then fans like myself will have to be content watching movies like these on disc.

Twilight Time is releasing this one with their usual high quality crisp and clean picture. Extras are limited to an isolated music track and the original theatrical trailer. As is always the case the release is limited to just 3,000 copies so fans should pick one up before they're gone.
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too much jumping around in time
SnoopyStyle14 April 2015
Charley Prince (John Hurt) and Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin) are at Wild Bill Hickok (Jeff Bridges)'s funeral. The movie flashes back as Wild Bill ride with California Joe. Then it jumps around from Nebraska 1867 to as a Marshall in 1871 Abilene, Kansas where he accidentally shoots his own deputy in a chaotic shootout. He joins Buffalo Bill Cody (Keith Carradine)'s show in NYC where he's generally a bad actor. He's losing his eyesight. He gets called out by wheelchair bound Will Plummer (Bruce Dern) in Cheyenne and promptly kills Will. He meets up with Jane and is dogged by young Jack McCall (David Arquette). Jack is helped by Lurline Newcomb (Christina Applegate). Will Bill had an affair with his mother Susannah Moore (Diane Lane) which ends in tragedy.

The movie jumps around so much in time period that it feels very aimless. The plot meanders and pacing drags. The back and white flashbacks make it lifeless. Sometimes it turns surreal. I was relieved that Calamity Jane finally rejoins the movie but then it goes off once again to another place and time. Other than being a drunk card-playing gunslinger, the movie doesn't get too deep into Wild Bill. The movie fades in and out so much that it's hard to cling onto. Jack McCall is not necessarily a compelling character. In the end, the movie slips through my fingers.
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