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The Quick and the Dead

You can't ignore her. You can't beat her. You can't resist her. You can't win... 

Year: 1995 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

The Quick and the Dead is quite simply the most viscerally exciting western ever produced. This is due to the plot which is contrived to provide a full-throttled, high-noon style show down virtually every ten minutes of the film.

The pretext for this action is a quick draw tournament organized by the town's oppressive boss, Herod (Gene Hackman), who has a solid rationale for holding the event. As he explains, the tournament allows him to confront his enemies face to face instead of having them sneak up from behind. And he certainly has a lot of enemies. Every one of the Redemption's (the town) citizens would love to see him six feet under, and together they've secretly hired a professional gunman to take him out. The newly arrived drifter, Ellen (Sharon Stone), also wants him dead. Even Herod's illegitimate son, Kid, (Leonardo DiCaprio) wishes nothing more than to put a bullet through his father's brain.

Gene Hackman's generates a palpable menace. His mere presence gives the film a solid grounding and he gives just the right amount of realism.

The story, though, revolves around Sharon Stone's character, Ellen, who in the film's catalogue of stock Western stereotypes corresponds to the Clint Eastwood character - the cool, steel-eyed stranger who rides into town with a mysterious agenda. Stone does a good job of showing that Ellen's toughness is really a front, that underneath she's afraid and struggling for courage. This makes her human and thus believable.

Sam Raimi, the director, is perfectly suited to this kind of script. You may be familiar with him from the "Evil Dead" movies and Darkman. He has an eccentric visual style to put it mildly, but to his credit he's fairly restrained here. The only time he really lets loose is during the actual showdowns and then his inventiveness serves to heighten the drama.

I have to say that THE QUICK AND THE DEAD really has a lot going for it. This is a movie which succeeds at everything it attempts. It's funny, clever, compelling and even breaks new ground for female leads. It's also full of great performances. What more do you want from a movie?

Adrian Grimshaw

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Screenings of this film:

1995/1996 Spring Term (35mm)