Wednesday, 30 March 2011

RaimiFest: The Quick And The Dead

Currently my blogging rival (and I say that only in the most affectionate of terms, especially seeing how he just writes so much prettier than me) Bryce over at “Things That Don’t Suck” is currently holding “Raimifest”, a celebration of all things Sam Raimi and encouraging the blogging community to submit their opinions on the life and work of the man in question, so make sure you go check it out for some varied and great musings on all things Raimi! Title: The Quick and The Dead Director: Sam Raimi Released: 1995 Staring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobin Bell, Keith David, Lance Henrickson, Gary Sinise, Jonothon Gill Plot: Ellen (Stone) a mysterious female gunslinger rides into the small prairie town of Redemption, which ruled by the ruthless John Herod (Hackman), who has arranged a quick draw competition as part of his ongoing campaign to eliminate any potential threats to his rule, while at the same time forcing his former Henchman turned preacher Cort (Crowe) to enter.

Review: Today is actually a pretty special day, seeing how it’s my son Williams first birthday, which brought up a lot of memories of my own childhood, including that stereotypical view that all boys will be fans of Westerns and Football, the later of which will for myself never happen, while as for Westerns these have always been a largely ignored genre for myself, with it taking something real special or unique for me to watch most westerns, which I guess is the reason I like this one so much, for not only is it a western I totally dig, but also an oddity on Sam Raimi’s Directorial C.V, who had shown no real interest in the genre, even more so when he was at this point in his career associated more with the Horror Genre especially after the success of “The Evil Dead Trilogy”. Coming across like a homage to the films of Sergio Leone, the film pretty much hits the ground running and never lets up the pace, especially when we are mere minutes into the film, before Ellen or “The Lady” as she’s frequently referred to has beaten up Tobin Bell’s greasy prospector Dog Kelly and left him chained to the wheel of his wagon, with little provoking needed for this “Mad Max” style of revenge, other than the fact he’d attempted to shoot her, which on second thoughts actually seems pretty reasonable when you think about it. Still this seemingly random act of violence is the perfect introduction to Ellen, who speaks softly while letting her actions do all the talking, in particular with her quick draw skills. Still she is a woman whose past and reasons for riding into town are murky at best, much like all of the best of Leone’s antihero’s. Plotwise it is essentially a two thread story switching between Ellen’s reasons for coming to Redemption and entering the competition, aswell as her murky past seen here largely in flashbacks, with Raimi having enough faith in his audience to resist not just hamering home the big revel and instead allow the audience to piece it all together, especially when Ellen only mutters a handful of words at best, though it does bare a worrying similarity to the ending of “Once Upon A Time In The West”. The other main plot thread concerning Herod and his attempts to goad Cort back into his former violent ways by not only burning down his orphanage, but also dragging him into town in chains. Still it’s not quite clear what Herod’s true intentions really are, especially when he leaves Cort chained to a rock, while also forcing him to shoot with the cheapest junk pistol he can find aswell as giving him only a single bullet, but then Herod is hardly about fair play, especially when he frequently changes the rules to suit his own personal means. The town of Redemption is a dusty and tumbleweed strewn town, were it’s townsfolk will happily steal anything that’s not nailed down, as frequently proven by the hordes which decent on the dead, frequently while their bodies are still warm stripping them of anything of value in second and in one case even taking their Gold Teeth, with the crippling taxes imposed by Herod reducing many of the townsfolk to vicious savages. Still thanks to the contest it’s also one, which Raimi has been able to also fill with a variety of colourful gunslingers and bandits all willing to take their chances to collect the prize money. This mix of characters is certainly one of the high point of the film, especially as they are so varied from the flamboyant trickshot and Teller of tall tales Ace Hanlon (Henrikson) to the fast talking gunslinger known as “The Kid” (DiCaprio), though for all the colourful characters who Raimi brings to life with his usual flair and style, there are a couple of duff characters such as “Spotted Horse” (Gill) whose sole contribution to proceedings seems to not stretch past constantly shouting “Spotted Horse cannot be killed by a bullet”, whenever he appears on screen and really only adds another body to add to the pile once they start mounting up, rather than anything particularly important plot wise. This is much the same for the townsfolk who are pretty much the usual group of stereotypical characters, with only a handful fleshed out to be more than background characters. Still even the most colourful characters in the cast are quickly pushed to the side when Herod is on the screen, as Hackman once again seems to be having a blast not only chewing up the scenery, but also playing a decent and truly ruthless villain, as he portraying Herod much like his namesake, surveying the competition from a throne and often while drinking fine wine from a goblet, let alone his habit of constantly changing the rules to serve his own means and it’s of little surprise that Hackman once again provides the majority of memorable moments here. The action sequences are all pretty thrilling, with Raimi pretty much levelling the town in a hail of gunfire and exploding building for his finale, which did have me questioning how Ellen even manages to setup such a spectacular finale showdown, I mean did none of Herod’s lackeys happen to notice all these barrels of gunpowder being placed in key locations around the city? Meanwhile the violence is pretty restrained for Raimi, especially after the memorable gooey fun of “The Evil Dead”, with the majority of the violence here being limited to bloody gunshot wounds which only makes the money shots like the hole in the head all the more satisfying when they happen. Sharon Stone seriously makes the most of her Producer credit here, not only personally choosing Raimi to direct, but also bringing on board both DiCaprio and Crowe, who at the time were still essentially unknown talent and while DiCaprio is still a peach fuzzed youth, he is cocky but not to the point of irritating, while watching this film now, it only makes me wonder why it took Crowe so long to be recognised as a mainstream actor, as he’s in great form as the former bandit who has long since turned his back on his violent past. Raimi has not only created a great western here, but one which although lacking in subtly and high on gloss is still a fun and exciting ride and how really cares about historical accuracy and plausibility, especially it’s this much fun!


  1. Oh pshaw sir. You're just as more better of a words scribbler as I am.

    Great review. I'm proud to quick draw against you any day of the week.

    And congratulations on your son's birthday that's some great news. I've been watching some of my friend's kids at that age lately, and man it looks like a blast. Albiet a blast I'm not quite ready for ; )

  2. Wonderful write up on this underrated western, my friend. Thanks.

  3. @Bryce: Thanks, though you always always be the one keeping me on my toes. Now if I could just make your work rate that would be another problem sorted :)

    As for kids I'm not so much a fan of other peoples kids, but I love my own kid to bits (strange eh?). Still I'm just looking forward to the day when he's the first kid in his school to name all the Toho monsters!

    @Le0pard13: Thanks for reading and it is a shame that it's so frequently over looked, by western snobs. Still if Raimifest has proved anything, it's that there are more than a few of us out there, who feel the same about this movie.


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