By Doug Cummings
Arizona Daily Wildcat
"The Quick and the Dead," director Sam Raimi's new visually kinetic Western, has two main problems: it has no screenplay and it has no soul. Apart from that, it's a Sergio Leone wannabe that suffers from predictability and blaring stereotypes.
The story follows Ellen (Sharon Stone), a mysterious woman who rides into the small town of Redemption in a shroud of sulky silence. For the most part, she sits around in the saloon and glares at people, but whenever she sees the town mayor, Herod (Gene Hackman), she suddenly begins twitching in spasmodic fury.
Herod is the darkly grandiose orchestrator of the town's claim to fame: a quick-draw contest that occurs between two gunslingers every day at high noon. In order to intensify his evil aura, Herod also overtaxes the poor inhabitants of the town and is generally hated by all.
The movie is primarily an assemblage of the gunfights that pause briefly to develop the main characters. But the showdowns are presented in error. The proverbial Western showdown became popular when it visually represented a movie's central conflict. The protagonist and the antagonist faced each other, hands quivering over their guns. How would the movie end? In "The Quick and the Dead," the showdowns are merely excuses to narrow the various characters down into a focus group, which the movie does anyway through its dramatic emphasis. There is absolutely no suspense in the gunfights because the audience always knows the more "important" character will be the winner.
In addition, the filmmakers seem so pleased with themselves for making their protagonist a female that they clumsily include every other stereotype. There's the gambler/gunslinger, the wise old man who offers advice, and the benevolent father who is beaten up by the bad guys. Worst of all, there's a Native American who declares lines like, "I am Towering Tree! I have taken many bullets and yet here I stand!"
Thankfully, director Sam Raimi ("The Evil Dead" trilogy, "Darkman") energizes the movie with his trademark speeding camera and angular compositions. He turns each showdown into a unique visual extravaganza, and while it makes the movie watchable, it's not enough to make up for the plot's predictability or basic ineffectiveness.
"The Quick and the Dead" is an unremarkable story populated by stereotypes. The movie has too little to offer: fans of Sharon Stone's past sultriness will be disappointed because this time she keeps her pants on, Gene Hackman has given great performances in scores of better movies, and Sam Raimi's comic exaggeration is more supplementary in his horror/comedy efforts, like "The Evil Dead Part II." Movies need stories, and Raimi's dependence on movies that include the words "dead" or "dark" in the title should have warned him about this one. "The Quick and the Dead" was dead on arrival.
"The Quick and the Dead" is showing at Century Park 16, 620-0750.
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