MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Quick and the Dead’: New Spaghetti Recipe


Wearing a long tan duster, black hat, leather pants and a shirt cut to the navel (gunfighting is such hot work), a young woman named Ellen rides into the dusty Western town of Redemption with repartee on her mind. An oafish local croaks “You’re pretty” and gets “You’re not” as a reply. He tries “I need a woman” only to be trumped by “You need a bath.” No wonder they’re calling this “The Quick and the Dead.”

In truth (no surprise here), the new Western starring Sharon Stone as the laconic woman-with-one-name is not really about an epic battle of wits. It’s a tale of revenge centering on a quick-draw contest, a kind of Super Bowl of gunslingers, complete with NFL-type playoff brackets, that pits killer against killer in what is, inevitably, a single-elimination tournament.

And who could ask for a more impressive bunch of competitors? There is Ace Hanlon (Lance Henrikson), resplendent in a leather outfit that is pure Hollywood Boulevard; Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio, of all people), a glib youthful prodigy; and Gutzon (Sven-Ole Thornsen), the fastest draw in all of Sweden. Yes, Sweden.


Clearly this is the delirious as opposed to the historical West, a place that is excessive and self-parodying by design. And though the studio is calling “The Quick and the Dead” “a Western unlike any seen before,” those familiar with Sergio Leone and the long line of spaghetti Westerns that “A Fistful of Dollars” spawned will know exactly where this film is coming from.

A careful knockoff of Leone, complete down to the blighted, surreal landscape and the grotesque characters with awful teeth (the leather designers apparently arrived in this part of the West well before the dentists did), “Quick” relies on its star just as much as Leone relied on his.

As the female Clint Eastwood, a woman with a mission, Stone proves she can smoke a cheroot and stare down a dunce with the best of them. An actress whose strength has always been her considerable on-screen presence, Stone understands the kind of posing and posturing this film requires much better than either DiCaprio, who seems a bit lost in his part, or co-star Gene Hackman.

Hackman plays Herod (so much for subtlety), the fearless malefactor who has turned Redemption into his own private money machine. Greed aside, Herod has a philosophical reason for sponsoring the quick-draw competition. Cort (Russell Crowe), his former partner in crime, has become a priest given to saying tedious things like “I have renounced violence” and “Killing people is wrong.” But can a killer truly change? Herod is determined to find out.

The real stars of this extravaganza, however, are not people but hardware, the highly polished handguns that no one walks around Redemption without. The film’s crew includes an armorer/gun coach, an assistant armorer, even a holster fabricator, and the camera caresses the revolvers with an almost fetishistic glee.

Written by Simon Moore and directed by the energetically cartoonish Sam (“The Evil Dead”) Raimi, “The Quick and the Dead” is showy visually, full of pans and zooming close-ups. Rarely dull, it is not noticeably compelling either, and as the derivative offshoot of a derivative genre, it inevitably runs out of energy well before any of its hotshots runs out of bullets.

* MPAA rating: R, for Western violence. Times guidelines: The violence is mostly cartoonish, though one shot through a bullet hole in someone’s head is especially disconcerting.


‘The Quick and the Dead’ Sharon Stone: Ellen Gene Hackman: Herod Russell Crowe: Cort Leonardo DiCaprio: Kid An IndieProd production, in association with Japan Satellite Broadcasting Inc., released by TriStar Pictures. Director Sam Raimi. Producers Joshua Donen, Allen Shapiro, Patrick Markey. Executive producers Toby Jaffe, Robert Tapert. Screenplay Simon Moore. Cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Editor Pietro Scalia. Costumes Judianna Makovsky. Music Alan Silvestri. Production design Patrizia von Brandenstein. Art director Steve Saklad. Set decorator Hilton Rosemarin. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes.

* In general release throughout Southern California.