The Quick and the Dead
Plot: Gunfighters roll into a town run by the type of character Gene Hackman would play and participate in a tournament for 123 thousand dollars. Some of the participants have other things on their mind, however.
Gunfight porn, but give director Sam Raimi credit for giving each of the 10 or so gunfights its own unique look. It shouldn't surprise, and you'll recognize visual effects and camera trickery used in Darkman or the Evil Dead movies here. This is far from a traditional Western, but the visual touches always keep things exhilarating. The two, the single setting for almost all of the action, looks great even if it doesn't quite look 100% authentic, and Raimi's camera is always moving through the sets creatively. There are nods to Leone's spaghetti Westerns and some really terrific shots.
This is definitely in the category of style-over-substance as there's not much to a story which also happens to be really predictable. A lot of the auxiliary characters--a nearly-indestructible Indian, a flashy show-off, guys with some of the ugliest teeth you'll ever see--are great and add a lot of color and really fit in with Raimi's visual style, but there are some issues with the main characters. DiCaprio looks like a little kid and just doesn't seem quite right for his role. And he's too pretty. Sharon Stone is also too pretty, and I either didn't like her performance or didn't like the girl-power stoicism of the character, the kind of thing that feels manufactured or too written. I did like Russell Crowe, however, and I really liked Gene Hackman, a guy who can pretty much just go through the motions and phone it in and still be Gene Hackman and therefore get away with it.
So despite enough flaws that would turn away most Wild West flick aficionados, this entertains with that Raimi creativity, some cool characters, and some great shots. If you like Western gunfight showdowns, this might be the movie for you.
I wish I were Gene Hackman. Then, I could go through the motions when writing stuff for this blog and get away with it instead of ending up with something like this.