The Quick and the Dead

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD has a very traditional western story, other than featuring a woman – Sharon Stone (ABOVE THE LAW) as Ellen – in the role of vengeance-seeking gunslinger. You’ve got your western town desperate to get out from under the yoke of a cruel ruler (Gene Hackman [THE SPLIT, PRIME CUT] as John Herod), and your mysterious drifter in town trying to get up the guts to shoot him for killing her father in front of her. All the shootists with the fastest guns and biggest mouths are coming in for a quick draw tournament, and she enters in hopes of getting a shot at her enemy.

But I think it’s truly distinct among ‘90s westerns, with two major things that make it stand out. One is the incredible cast. It includes great western icons: Woody Strode, Roberts Blossom, Pat Hingle, and of course Hackman in a performance arguably on par with UNFORGIVEN. It has colorful roles for genre favorites: Lance Henriksen, Keith David, Mark Boone Jr., Tobin Bell, Sven-Ole Thorsen. It has Gary Sinise immediately after his star-making, Oscar-nominated performance in FORREST GUMP. And it has two right-before-they-exploded co-stars: pre-L.A. CONFIDENTIAL Russell Crowe as former outlaw turned pacifist preacher Cort, and known-for-WHAT’S-EATING-GILBERT-GRAPE Leonardo DiCaprio as The Kid, the cocky, baby-faced son of Herod entering the contest just to get the attention of his asshole dad. We actually see The Kid mobbed by young women at one of the shooting matches, something that would become more familiar to DiCaprio a year later when ROMEO + JULIET came out.

The other thing is that it’s directed by Sam Raimi at the peak of his filmatistic powers, and he made a western with the energy of EVIL DEAD II. The tournament format means numerous Ash-suiting-up style montages, zoom ins and cool angles, plus the occasional cartoonish bodily destruction. I won’t say which character it is, but one of them ends his duel with a grapefruit sized hole in his head, and the camera looking through it as it perfectly frames his killer, gun still smoking. I always remember that when I saw this in the theater my friend and I walked out raving about that specific moment just before hearing a guy say to his friend, “It was pretty cool, but then the fucking hole through the guy’s head…” Like it was a bad thing. Maybe that’s why it never seemed to catch on with the Your Dad market that watched TOMBSTONE and DANCES WITH WOLVES. It still feels like a cult movie.

I’ve seen this many times over the years, and it only gets better with time. It works as a completely sincere story about people who don’t enjoy violence trying to stand up to a bully who lives for it, and I bet it could’ve been a decent movie if directed by some hack. But in Raimi’s hands it’s a constant marvel. It feels like every 30 seconds at least there’s a good line or a delightfully clever gimmick, not just the visuals but the little moments and odd touches of heightened reality. (Spookablast realism?)

When Stone’s character Ellen (or “Lady” as she’s mostly referred to) rides toward the town of Redemption, a bandit named Dog Kelly (Tobin Bell, BOILING POINT) assumes she’s some dude trying to steal his gold, and shoots her off her horse. When he goes to check her body she turns out to be alive, knocks him down and stands over him. We see first in her shadow, then in a glorious hero shot, that his bullet went through the brim of her hat.

As she enters town, Woody Strode is in the street carving a coffin. He looks at her and asks, “Five-foot eight. Am I right?” I love a good coffin maker joke in a western.

The clock tower will be an important element throughout the movie, because the firing always starts when it strikes the hour, so of course Raimi (via cinematographer Dante Spinotti [MANHUNTER]) is gonna get a cool shot of it as she strolls into town. And the hand moves as she arrives right on the hour.

The heart and soul of the town (if it indeed has a heart or soul) is The Pigeon’s Nest Club Cafe, a saloon and inn run by Horace (Pat Hingle, BATMAN). He’s on a stool putting a bottle of whisky away when she asks for a room, and he tells her “Whore’s next door.” That’s when she kicks his stool, catches the bottle and pours herself a glass. A hell of a second entrance.

This is where the tournament kicks off, as various colorful characters put their names on the board. They include Sven-Ole Thorsen (previously in the Raimi-produced HARD TARGET) as the Swede, Gutzon; Kevin Conway (THE FUNHOUSE) as the pervert Eugene Dred; Mark Boone Junior (DIE HARD 2) as the escaped convict (stilling wearing stripes) Scars; and Keith David (ALWAYS) as pipe smoking Sergeant Clay Cantrell. The showiest show off of the bunch is Lance Henriksen (also in HARD TARGET) as “Ace” Hanlon, who’s introduced in an outlandish shot that travels along his ridiculously long shadow, stretched all the way across the room, before hitting his fancy-ass boots.

Cort (Crowe) has renounced violence, and Herod gets a kick out of trying to make him break his vow, so he drags him in in, strings him up on a chair and shoots at the legs to get him to enter. Ellen watches and looks unusually freaked out for a western hero (because, we’ll learn, this is how Herod killed her father). Then she jumps up and shoots the rope, saving Cort and earning her place in the contest. (But he has to enter too.)

Once the contest lineup is settled everybody starts shooting into the air to celebrate. They don’t even wait until they get outside. Although this is a town in need of rescuing, it’s fair to say it’s full of assholes. It’s the kind of town where when you walk in some guy (INTRUDER director Scott Spiegel) offers “Gold teeth. All sizes. I got uppers, I got lowers.” As soon as the quick draw contestants hit the dirt, bystanders scurry in to strip them of their valuables and teeth. When Cort has his first forced duel, kids make balls of horse shit with their bare hands to throw at him (a one-upping of those kids poking enslaved Ash with sticks as he’s marched in a pillory at the beginning of ARMY OF DARKNESS).

Of course he has to give in and shoot some guys. Or to “accidentally” kick a door to break the nose of Herod’s stooge Ratsie (Raynor Scheine, NAKED GUN 2 1/2). And he can’t hide his excitement when Herod brings him into a gun shop to see some top of the line product. The Kid throws him a Colt and he feels it out with a bunch of flips and spins like some circus performer. But he has no money so Herod buys him “the cheapest piece of worthless crap you got in this whole miserable store.”

To further the humiliation, he’s only allowed to carry one bullet at a time, setting the stage for the camera to follow one being thrown to him when he needs to reload. (That’s cool, but not as cool as when Herod throws a glass of water at his head, turning into a POV shot like the flying eyeball in EVIL DEAD II, and Cort catches and drinks it.) When he wins his first round he looks down as if surprised to see the smoking gun in his hand. The other guy yells, “He shot me!,” like it wasn’t fair for him to actually participate.

I love the way Raimi can make you laugh with a simple camera move in the middle of a suspenseful scene and not ruin anything. Case in point: when Ellen’s about to challenge Herod in the first round we hear her heart beating fast. But before she can say it someone taps her on the shoulder saying, “I challenge you.” She turns to face Dog Kelly, and the camera pans down to show he’s dragging a broken wagon wheel chained to his wrist, then back to his face now that we remember that’s the guy she left chained up in the opening scene.

They gotta have some sub-villains to kill off in the tournament, but Ellen really doesn’t like ending people’s lives. When she finds out Dred raped a little girl she angrily shoots his dick off, but still doesn’t want to finish the job.

They also gotta have some guys for Herod to kill, and he certainly seems to enjoy killing Ace Hanlon, the braggart who struts around preening his mustache and shows off by shooting right through the center of an ace of spades in a little girl’s hand. Of course, this is THE QUICK AND THE DEAD, so he first flips backwards over his horse, shoots between the horse’s legs, and we see the hole burst through the card framing Ace inside it. How the fuck did they do that?

But Herod catches Ace in a tall tale, taking credit for killing some guy he doesn’t realize was actually killed by Herod. “And I doubt if a lying little chicken shit like you was even in the same state,” Herod says. A dramatic sting scores the “oh shit” look on Ace’s face and the camera pulls out to reveal that we’ve already jumped ahead to their duel.

Herod not only kills Ace, but the legend of Ace. He shoots off his thumb (referencing an earlier allegation that he once shot off a girl’s thumb doing the card trick) and then makes him draw with his left hand (since he was just bragging that he was equally good with both). Ace tries to pull as Herod lights a match, but Herod shoots him right through the hand and finishes lighting his cigar.

He makes him dance like a buffoon, calls him “a bladder full of hot air,” coerces the crowd to applaud his death. Thieves strip Ace’s body of his flashy boots and clothes, and leave him dead in the street in his long underwear. Damn.

Herod is first introduced as a reflection on a telescope lens watching Ellen from his fancy house. Later she senses him coming to the saloon and spots him through a dirty window. He walks through the door with his face covered in shadow, bringing a breeze that whistles and blows Ellen’s hair back like a supernatural presence. She watches his spurred boots in slow motion before it pans up to his face.

He’s a villain worthy of his biblical name. He has a Greek muscleman statue on his porch. He watches the fights from a literal golden throne. When the full story of what he did to Ellen and her father is revealed, the cruelty is extravagant. Hackman of course grounds it all, and completely sells the malevolence, the arrogance, the fake friendly moments that are really threats. But there’s a powerful scene where he briefly fails to hide some humanity. Ellen comes to challenge him, only to find he’s already been challenged for this round – by the Kid. And he actually looks stressed about having to kill his own son. When the deed’s been done he looks even worse. He comes over and mumbles a couple different half-assed excuses for the inexcusable, the first being, “it was never proved that he was my son.” Pathetic. Perfect.

Man, he’s such a bastard, but he’s Hackman, so you kinda grudgingly admire how good he is at being such a bastard. He turns on his own man Ratsie for “ruining the contest” by bashing Cort’s hands, even though (according to Ratsie’s pathetic whine of “that’s not fair”) he put him up to it. He lets Ratsie run, then shoots him in the back and tosses his rifle to someone off screen like Prince did with his guitar after that “My Guitar Gently Weeps” solo.

When Ellen finally kills him (spoiler) it’s gonna have to be more than a standard quick draw competition. It has at least two pretty-fuckin-sure-Kevin-Costner-wouldn’t-do-this touches. One, she shoots him and he sees a hole in his shadow. Not in his hat like hers at the beginning – in his chest. Looks down and there’s a beam of light shining through him.

Two, we take the bullet’s perspective as she shoots him exactly in the iris, then we see brains splattering and his body doing a back flip. Not a typical Hackman death in my opinion. Although I haven’t seen WELCOME TO MOOSEPORT.

Many critics didn’t buy Stone in the role, and I’ll admit that at the time, although I liked her overall, I had issues with her in some scenes. But watching it now I don’t know what my problem was. I think it had to do with seeing her as some mainstream figure who it’s not cool to like, and thinking she had to fit into some kind of box. But, you know, the same year I dug some movie called COLDBLOODED where Jason Priestley played a hitman. That was way more of a leap there. Stone’s not Clint Eastwood, but she’s not exactly supposed to be either. Ellen can be tough, but it’s partly an act. She has a scene where she runs to the cemetery and cries to the doctor (Roberts Blossom, DERANGED) that she can’t do it. Another time she leaves town thinking she can’t even kill Herod.

Stone is great at all that, and also it’s fun to see her have the rare opportunity to play the type of cool asshole that Eastwood and other males get to play. Like she’s constantly annoyed by the young inn employee (Olivia Burnette, PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES) who seems in awe of her, and she always has mean things to say to her.

“Are you really gonna do it? What if you get killed?”

“Then I won’t be around to answer any more of your dumb questions.”

But she does have a heart. She cradles The Kid’s head and comforts him as he dies, then kisses his crying girlfriend (Fay Masterson, THE LONE RANGER) on the head. In a 1994 L.A. Times set visit article Stone said, “I really like that the woman plays what is classically the man’s role, because I’m learning that that’s what I’m best at. Not that I play it like a man. I think it’s woman revealed in a new way… It’s a pleasure because every day I get to come to work and experiment with what that is, what would it be like to be trapped in this situation in the Old West? And because I don’t have to fit into some agreement of femaleness, I get to really be female.”

According to The Evil Dead Companion by Bill Warren, it was Stone’s idea to hire Raimi. Producers approached her with “a six-page list of approved directors for her to choose from. She sent back a page with one name on it: Sam Raimi. And she told the producers that if Raimi didn’t direct the movie, she wouldn’t star in it.” She was particularly a fan of ARMY OF DARKNESS, but felt that in all of Raimi’s movies “you could see a filmmaker taking the opportunity to become a better filmmaker, to stretch the limits of his technical and creative ability.”

It was a great call. The story, some of the visuals and the score by Alan Silvestri (THE DELTA FORCE, RICOCHET) are obviously paying homage to spaghetti westerns, but it never feels like pastiche. It’s a Raimi movie through and through. The distinctive montages of EVIL DEAD II and DARKMAN are expanded upon greatly in a story that has to bring great drama to (and pass the time between) one simple one-shot duel after another. Raimi and editor Pietro Scalia (JFK) lovingly cut together closeups of pocket watches opening and bullets being carefully loaded into elegantly engraved barrels before the pistols are spun and slid into holsters. The camera twists and zooms in on Gutzon’s face, then his holster, then The Kid’s face, then Gutzon cracking his knuckles, then a man in a nearby building slamming his shutters closed. A few seconds later it does the same to Herod’s eyes, Cort’s eyes, the clock, each of the fighter’s faces. It’s not about the duels (which are so simple) but everything around them.

I like how Raimi overlaps shots of both the shooter and the person shot, to put two views into one shot. And he superimposes the duels with the people watching them. A dropped gun is shown tiny, spinning across the screen in front of Ellen’s eyes. A body is carried away as Herod’s cold eyes dissolve in above, like an evil emperor on a sci-fi movie poster.

Another memorable sequence is all about sound design. When Ellen tries to listen for the click that Cort tells her can be heard right before the clock strikes, we listen for it too, watching them stand tensely as a fly buzzes by, leather clothes rumple, a knuckle cracks, a woman in the crowd gasps.

The script was written on spec by Simon Moore, who was perhaps best known for the original mini-series Traffik that Steven Soderbergh later adapted. He had also written and directed UNDER SUSPICION starring Darkman himself, Liam Neeson (not the one by the same title that Hackman was in). The studio hired John Sayles (ALLIGATOR) to do a rewrite, but Moore was rehired when it got too long, and has claimed that he simply cut out the parts that Sayles added. Additionally, Raimi told Vulture that after he shot the movie, he didn’t think the ending was working, and asked the studio for a writer to help him. “They suggested Joss Whedon, who was doing Buffy, so I met Joss and he saw the movie, and he helped me solve this ending in one afternoon. I thought Damn, you’re a good writer! I wish I could have had you rewrite the whole movie and save this picture!”

(Not necessary, Sam.)

That attitude seems to come from being considered a financial disappointment (though not all out flop) with mixed reviews (though they were mostly complimentary of Raimi’s direction). And maybe he heard too many people like that guy complaining about the fuckin hole in the head. To the world’s great loss, Raimi was convinced that it was a mistake not to “change with the material,” and he has completely or partially subdued that style in almost everything he’s made since.

Thanks alot, assholes. THE QUICK AND THE DEAD was and is a great movie. It revels in all the traditions of the western, and yet to this day there’s nothing else quite like it.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 at 10:38 am and is filed under Reviews, Western. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

28 Responses to “The Quick and the Dead”

  1. Though in my childhood the Evil Dead movies were my favorite Raimi joints, The Quick and the Dead eclipsed them years ago for me in the Most-Watched Raimi flick department. Love everything about this one.

  2. Pretty sure this movie got me dumped by my high school girlfriend when I advocated too vociferously for us to go see it one night and she realized we were not compatible. I held a grudge against the movie for a while afterward but I got over it. I just can’t stay mad at Raimi. Girlfriends come and go but favorite directors are forever.

  3. I just recently rewatched this for the first time in at least a decade and man, is it still a blast. And I do disagree that it would be good with some hack on the director’s chair. I mean, the script has lots of good stuff and the cast is good enough to carry the movie, but if this would’ve been filmed like a normal western, it wouldn’t be as good. It’s a perfect mix of Raimi “just” being stylish and him milking every drop of suspense with his visuals.

    The biggest problem might be that the cast is so awesome and the characters, even the despicable ones, are so much fun, the more of them exit the movie, the more it slows down. Nothing against Stone, Hackman (especially not Hackman) and Crowe, but once these three are the only ones left (Spoiler) it’s not as good as having a dozen scenery chewing people on your screen. Thankfully the movie picks up quick with the completely insane finale.

    One of my favourite touches is that our heroine is all tough on the outside, but isn’t a cold blooded killer. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a commentary on the glorifcation of killing in popculture, since she in the end has absolutely no trouble to finally kill Herod, but she isn’t some tough Überwoman who defeats everybody with a smile and a quip, although she seems like that at first. She misses a dozen good opportunities to do what she came for because she is afraid of pulling the trigger. Then when she finally kills a man, it’s extremely justified, yet it’s not shown as a heroic act and it fucks with her so badly, she just packs her bags and leaves.

    Well, seems like up next is what I call Raimi’s “I promise, I can make normal movies too” trilogy.

  4. I don’t know why it took someone 30 years to think of doing The Woman With No Name but I’m glad this is the version they did. I always thought Stone was perfect. You’re right she adds some choice moments of emotion but she’s Catherine Fucking Trammel!

    I worked at a movie theater when this played and I remember being disappointed it wasn’t catching on. I of course watched it two weekends in a row because I had to introduce it to other friends.

    Raimi seems very sensitive and self-critical. Overall it’s a positive. It’s what keeps him humble but it’s too bad he takes things like this and Spider-Man 3/Oz so personally. It seems his effort to change with material paid off in A Simple Plan and The Gift, and then he felt comfortable bringing the full Raimi to Spiderman.

    But yeah, a few other Raimi style genre pieces would’ve been nice. Imagine a Raimi musical! And he should probably try a straight comedy again now that he has clout to do it his way.

  5. Generally, I respect the Michael “Pussies do that” Bay school of thought vis a vis changing up your style, but it’s also cool when an artist humbles himself enough to try to get by without his usual bag of tricks. That said, it sucks when an artist only seems to get respect when he stops doing the thing he’s better at than anybody in the world and starts doing the normal shit everybody else does. A SIMPLE PLAN and THE GIFT are both solid little thrillers, but there are 1000 directors who could have made them. I think we all prefer the Sam Raimi movies that only Sam Raimi could have made.

  6. I’m with CJ; this one really needed Raimi. The tone and style he brings to it really fits the premise. Sharon Stone was absolutely right.

    But can we talk about Hackman for a minute? I think Hackman hadn’t made a western since the mid-70s until UNFORGIVEN, and then he made three great ones with three great directors in 3 years. And he managed to fit in WYATT EARP into that period as well. I love, incidentally, that he’d told Clint that he didn’t want to do UNFORGIVEN as he didn’t want to do any more violent films. Of those three great ones, I’d say this is the one I like least. But that’s a question of my taste; I’m guessing most people would call for this over Walter Hill’s GERONIMO: AN AMERICAN LEGEND. Now, I’ve seen it argued that Hackman is a great actor within a limited range. Give him a grizzled old geezer, good or bad, to play and let him loose! But I’d argue that the subtly and variation he brings to his parts in those films shows up much more than that. Herod could so easily fall into a caricature of a villain, but Hackman never plays him as anything less than a real character. Yes, the cast of this is awesome, but it’s hard to believe that having Hackman around didn’t raise everyone’s level, and he fits so well with Raimi’s film making. I don’t know that I would’ve predicted that, even after Lex Luthor.

  7. Both Bridget Fonda and Sharon Stone, at the height of their awesomeness both wanted to work with/loved Sam Raimi’s movies is all you need to know.

  8. Welp, I’ll have to revisit this one sooner rather than later. My unopened 4K disc is just sitting there on the shelf. I remember liking this one, but I think I’ll love it now.

    I recently watched COMIN’ AT YA!, and I wonder if it’s at possible that the climax of that film influenced this one.

    As for Hackman, Bruce Campbell (scenes deleted) has a story he’s told at shows (and included in If Chins Could Kill) about how early in the shoot Hackman was, shall we say, resistant to what Raimi wanted him to do, until Raimi explained the motivation behind his direction, all of which was complimentary to Hackman’s character, and then Gene went along with it. One version is here (if the link works):

    Bruce Campbell talks about Sam Raimi and Gene Hackman

    SO SORRY, INTERVIEWING GUY! COULDN'T LOCATE YOUR NAME!!! (=_=")Bruce Campbell talks about Sam Raimi and Gene Hackman on the set of The Quick and the Dead at ...

  9. This is one of my favorite Raimi movies. It’s pure entertainment, relentless in its fun & inventiveness & charm. I had just graduated from college when this movie came out on video, and (as a broke film school grad who had just flown out to Los Angeles) was crashing with my Uncle while I got on my feet. We watched it and wound up talking about it afterwards and then he committed a fucking mortal sin. “It was really well-directed,” I said, and he said: “Someone directed that?”

    Guys, it got ugly. I moved out, he was crying, etc. Took years for the wound to heal and for us to repair our relationship.

    I realize as I write this it sounds like I’m exaggerating for comedic effect but, no, that’s how offended I was by his fucking dismissal of what Sam Raimi accomplished in this movie.

  10. I love that Hackman still did this after dropping the mic on evil sheriffs with Unforgiven. I’d say he double dropped it with this.

    Maj, my feminist high school girlfriend loved it. We made it to July of that year.

  11. Enough people have already said what I would have about how 100% thrilling and entertaining this movie is… so I’ll just note that the showy camera moves and dialogue of THE HARDER THEY FALL reminded me of this. In a good way. More movies should be influenced by QUICK AND THE DEAD.

    Though I also have to mention the excellent badass introduction of Sgt. Cantrell, who calls out his name in the signup for the gunfighting contest and when asked “How do you spell that?” replies, “(long pause to light a cool steampunk pipe and take a puff)… Correctly.” Indeed.

  12. Been sitting out the Raimi-fest on grounds of having never seen most of his films, but I did see QATD for the first time this very year, and I had a blast. I thought Sharon Stone was one of the weaker links of this. Her peformance is passable, but the film can’t decide whether to emphasize her sexiness or her toughness or how to do both of these well and ends up just kind of splitting the difference or sort of alternating between the two in a clumsy way — “Sure, she’s purdy, but she can shoot, too, by God!,” every scene seems to want to say. I would speculate that she was trying to use the role to show her range and break out of her typecasting (understandably so, more power to her for trying), but by going up against Crowe and Hackman, I think she ends up getting pretty badly outshined, which only adds to the perception that she’s “just a pretty face.” I don’t think that’s just rank sexism, because I’m pretty sure that a Jessica Chastain could’ve made that work.

    As for the rest of the film, I did really appreciate the camera work and stylized nature of things. Really liked Crowe and Hackman, DiCaprio was okay, and the father-son thing had some good stakes, good tension throughout. I mean, Crowe being the stoic dignified type, Hackman being a cruel sonofabitch, Raimi’s filmatism, and standard western tropes are plenty enough to make this one work.

  13. I haven’t listened to the Campbell interview (no sound on my work pc), but I read somewhere that Hackman used to get really angry because he never knew where the camera was.

    Fred, it didn’t really take 30 years to invent the Woman-With-No-Name. She just wasn’t much used in American westerns.

  14. I walked out of the theater thinking I saw a great post-modern western. Little did I know, I had just witnessed something that would play on television at least once a week for years and years to come, and yet, if I watched 30 seconds of it while flipping through the stations, I would end up watching the rest, every single time.

    In other words, I had just witnessed the next Roadhouse.

  15. If you like QATD then you might want to watch Gene Quintano’s Dollar for the Dead (“Did Emilio Estevez just do a back flip?”).

  16. I haven’t watched this since the VHS days but it was the one review I looked forward to the most in the series (well DRAG ME TO HELL revisited as well) since it’s the one I’ve been detached from the longest. I remember really liking it as a kid. The female leads in action oriented movies was a big hook for me back then thanks to LA FEMME NIKITA cause it felt so new. Even though I wasn’t Sharon Stone’s biggest fan it was this one and CASINO that helped me finally respect her gangsta. It’s on Tubi I think and I think I’ll finally give it a rewatch from a 38 year old perspective this weekend.

  17. Broddie – not sure if you’ll have the same experience, but I tried re-watching this after I finally saw Once Upon a Time in the West (since the big reveal in that movie is clearly paid homage to here), and I pulled up the free version streaming on either Tubi, Pluto, or Crackle, and it actually made me mad how shitty it looked. Like, it was still widescreen and in “HD”, but there was something wrong about the picture (color grading maybe?) – it just sorta looked like a cheap DTV Western with shitty costumes and cardboard sets, like Brisco County or Bloodrayne II or whatever Avatar looks like when you put the settings wrong on your TV. I seriously thought “man, I kinda expected better from Raimi – you figure he’d know if you’re making a movie clearly paying homage to spaghetti westerns, you wouldn’t make it look like dogshit.”

    And I hope that streaming version has been digitally buried, because I later saw the 4k version on Amazon and the (now) impeccable cinematography is amazing but the least interesting thing about this movie! It’s a fun, fast homage to the Leone flicks that tells its own interesting story, full of cool characters doing cool things played by cool actors. Dicaprio has more charisma here than probably any other movie I’ve seen him in, and Crowe is so awesome I have to admit I wouldn’t have minded if he was the lead character (I mean, his whole storyline is literally John Wick in the Old West, it seems like either an embarrassment of riches or almost a waste to have him as a supporting character).

    But the real revelation for me was Stone – I always kinda thought she was kinda a one-hit wonder (I mean, Basic Instinct is a very good one hit to have), but here she completely upends her onscreen persona in a brilliant way – just when you start groaning at her “stoic one-liner for everything” performance that kinda brings to mind Body of Evidence-era Madonna, you find out it’s all bullshit and this is a scared, vulnerable character putting on a show because that’s what you have to do in this world. I can understand how some people will see that as disappointing (I think a modern day remake would just keep her as badass the whole way through), but I thought it was fascinating – it’s a movie where the 4 leads are playing with and tweaking their past and future personas, and manage to not get lost in the jumble of a movie trying furiously to entertain by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you. This is a great movie and one of Raimi’s best.

    Sidenote: You’re not going to hear me say this too often but I’m glad they cut out the sex(?)/love scene between Crowe and Stone that i think you get a glimpse of in the trailer (kinda like the JCVD/Yancey Butler kiss in the trailer for the Raimi-adjacent Hard Target!) The movie really doesn’t need it at all. Also – I still don’t know if Stone slept with Dicaprio or not – I feel like sticking with the movie’s theme, it sorta hints that he was just talking a big game and passed out drunk before anything happened, right? Because it would kinda be interesting and baller if the early cut of this movie had her sleeping with both guys, James Bond-style.

  18. I’ve never liked Stone in anything, but in this one she’s really good. Kudos to our man Sam, I guess.

  19. TOTAL RECALL was peak Stone IMO.

  20. Thanks for the heads up neal. I always keep the film mode feature on on my tv so hopefully that helps.

  21. I love this movie. Love it. I’m a Western fan in any event, but a Sam Raimi Western? Starring Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman. Just pump that right into my veins.

    Several years ago I had a guy who wanted to work on a Western graphic novel with me. I was all, “OK, watch THE QUICK AND THE DEAD and let me know what you think of it.” He was ambivalent towards the movie. Needless to say, that GN never happened. I’ve got standards, man.

  22. Missed this one when it came out but watched it tonight because of Vern’s review.

    Feels like a stone-cold classic to me. (Pun not intended but I’ll roll with it.)

    Sharon Stone is great in it, and I think her understated performance has benefited from some time passing. She was kind of written off in the 90s as a pretty face but I think there’s always been more going on with her.

    Hackman is great of course, and Crowe and DiCaprio stellar as well. I could see a less-stylized version of this movie working just fine, but aside from the visual flourishes it’s refreshing to see a genuinely feminist hero uncompromised by the need to give her a love interest or male-gaze sexualization. (As neal2zod noted it’s not clear if she fucks DiCaprio but she’s clearly not pining for him, and when at a later point she gives him a victory kiss—and then pushes him away—she’s just indulging herself in the moment. She later gets glammed for dinner with Herod but she’s *in costume* with the single-minded purpose of murdering him.) And at the same time it lets her be vulnerable and three-dimensional, with a backstory of tragic fuck-uppery that she wants to right. I think most directors would have fucked that up somehow but Raimi just lets it work.

    In the same vein, the subplot of the bartender’s daughter and her sleazy john is played just right; she knows she can’t stop it (this is just how things are) right up until she’s had too much and she snaps.

    Anyway, I was alive in the 90s (and a big Evil Dead 2 fan) but missed this one; thanks Vern for highlighting it.

  23. The great thing about a relatively standard but well written genre picture is that a great director like Raimi (or say Leone before him) is able to be all the more inventive with his style because the plotting isn’t stealing the show. This was a tremendous demonstration of what Raimi can do and I think it’s a shame that he toned it down after this one.

  24. I’m going to echo Stone being miscast. It’s unfair, considering she had the good taste to apparently shepherd this one through to the starting gate, but as the lead, she’s just kinda there. I doubt she’d be anyone’s favorite character in her own movie, much less take on other 90s heroines like Ripley or even Sydney Prescott. Kinda like with Seth McFarlene on The Orville. Guy knows exactly what show to make, except that he shouldn’t be the guy front and center of it.

  25. Also, it always felt weirdly contrived to me that she’s both such a badass that she can outshoot anyone, outfight anyone, et al et al, but somehow she’s never killed anyone. Huh? How’s she gotten all this shootout experience without anyone dying from it? It’d be like if partway through Escape From New York, Snake broke down crying because actually he just killed someone for the first time.

  26. Well, you don’t have to kill someone to learn how to draw your gun as quick as possible and hit the goal you are shooting at.

  27. Seems like most things have been said about this one…what I liked about it was not only the crazy stuff and the amazing cast, but how for once Raimi was making a nutzoid movie that actually had an interesting storyline…we know it’s going to get whittled down, and clearly she ain’t gonna shoot Russel Crowe, but how will it be resolved? Or will she need to go up against the Kid? I love how The Kid talks trash the whole time and then ends up blubbering in the street, great tonal shifts in the movie.

    One things I like is the subtle bit after Hackman shoots off Ace’s thumb, and asks him how good is he with his left like he was bragging about. And then uses HIS left to shoot Ace again since he was holding a cigar in his right. That’s just good writing and detail work.

  28. Rewatched it, and loved it even more. In terms of visuals, it might be Raimi’s best. Deserves to be spoken of in hushed tones like Raimi’s other masterpieces.

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