There are good movies that, for whatever reason, don’t make much of an impression on the public when they were released. They either bombed in the theater, or just went straight-to-dvd. This is one of them
This movie has a pedigree that, on paper, reads like an Oscar-winning blockbuster. Sam Raimi directs a cast that stars Russell Crowe, Leonardo Dicaprio, Gene Hackman and Sharone Stone, with smaller parts by Tobin Bell, Gary Sinise, Lance Henriksen, & Keith David. But what’s funny about this film is that when it was made, back in 1995, Sharon Stone (who also executive produced it) was the biggest star in the cast, while Crowe and Dicaprio didn’t even warrant a spot on the official poster. I don’t think anyone watching this film back then would have predicted that those two would one day become internationally known A-list stars.
Well, no one won any Oscars for this film, but it wasn’t trying to be that kind of movie. This is a good old fashioned spaghetti western, with a mysterious cowboy riding into a town to avenge the death of a loved one. Except, in this case, the cowboy is a cowgirl. Sharon Stone plays “The Lady”, who rides into a town called Redemption, which we soon learn is run by a man named John Herod (Hackman), who is known for being absolutely fearless and the quickest gunman in town, and is also the man that The Lady holds responsible for the death of her father when she was a young girl. Herod sponsors a $100,000 quick draw contest in town, and several of the cowboys in town enter it, including The Lady. Meanwhile, Herod has kidnapped a preacher named Cort (Crowe), and forces him to enter the contest, against his will. We find out that years ago, before he was a preacher, Cort was Herod’s protege and a fellow outlaw, who eventually became disillusioned with his evil ways and renounced all violence. The Lady also meets a young man called “The Kid” (Dicaprio), who runs a local gun shop and claims to be Herod’s illegitimate son. The Kid flirts with The Lady, to no avail, and also enters the contest.
We get several scenes of gunfights, all held in the classic “quick-draw” competition. Two men face each other and when the clock strikes they draw their guns and shoot. Whomever’s fastest wins. The best fights are The Lady’s first time (against a character played by Tobin Bell), Cort’s first time (where he had claimed he wouldn’t shoot) and his fight against a seemingly unkillable Native American man, and Herod’s fights against gaudy showoff named Ace (Henriksen) and against Keith David’s character, who had been hired by some of the townsfolk to kill him. The drama of who will shoot first is played very well in each scene. Then there’s the lead up to the showdown between Herod and Cort, and The Lady’s final revelation about the death of her father.
This is just a fun popcorn movie. Not too heavy on the dcharacterization, and the climax might be a bit overboard, but I think anyone who ever played Cowboys and Indians as a kid, or dressed up as one or the other for Halloween, will get a kick out of it.