Sharon Stone in a spaghetti western with Russell Crowe, Leonardo di Caprio, and Gene Hackman

Rating: 3.6/5]

Pros: cast, look

Cons: other than having Sharon Stone in a Clint Eastwood role, pretty conventional

I knew that the 1956 paint-by-numbers western starring Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood (one of their several pairings) “Burning Hills” derived from one of the many formulaic western novels by Louis L’Amour. It has a formulaic romance, one interesting character (the “halfbreed” tracker played by Eduard Franz) and a twist of using a Comache raiding party. Skip Homeier played the ruthless robber baron/formulaic villain.

I knew that “The Quick and the Dead” (1995) was directed by Sam Raimi (after “The Evil Dead,” before Spiderman I,II, and III) and starred Sharon Stone, but didn’t notice the name Louis L’Amour in the credits.

The title is the sorting in the Final Judgement, and the town into which The Lady (Stone as the Woman with No Name) rides to participate in a gunfighting elimination match is named Redemption, run by a smiling ruthless gunfighter named John Herod (played with relish by Gene Hackman). It only gradually becomes apparent what The Lady seeks to redeem. (It involves Gary Sinise.)

A young (pre-Titanic, post Gilbert Grape) Leonardo diCaprio struts about and insists on registering for the contest, to the dismay of his father (Hackman). Cort, a very fast-drawing former part of Herod’s outlaw enterprises, played by Russell Crowe, has renounced violence and taken up preaching. Herod is determined to smash Cort’s commitment to nonviolence.

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There’s not really a romance between The Lady and Cort (in contrast, she wakes up very hungover with The Kid), but they become allies of sorts against Herod.

There are a series of shoot-outs, well filmed by cinematographer Dante Spinotti (who worked with Crowe filming “LA Confidential” and “The Insider” as well as “Heat” and “Wonder Boys”).

Nothing profound, nothing unusual other than having a female gunslinger protagonist and a powerhouse cast (including John Ford repertory member Woody Strode as a coffin maker; Strode also appeared in “Once Upon a Time in the West” which Q&D sometimes seems to be parodying with trademark Sergio Leone closeups of eyes), but I found it entertaining. Hackman, who is probably a nice guy, was so good at playing these nasty roles and I also miss Pat Hingle, who played the saloonkeeper and mc of the duels.

“The Quick and the Dead” cost 35 million dollars and only drew eighteen and a half million dollars at the box office… which may be why I was unfamiliar with the movie. (Sony was unfamiliar with and dubious about both Russell Crowe and Leonardo diCaprio: in effect Stone cast them).

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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