The Good, The Bad and The Beautiful
For me "The Quick and the Dead" is a confusing movie or should that be confused, because it starts like any other western then transforms into something more comic like. It at times feels partly like a pastiche on the classics spaghetti westerns in no doubt down to the lead character of Ellen 'The Lady' feeling uncomfortably like a female version of Clint Eastwood's man with no name. There are moments of tension which punctuate for what is most a predictable storyline and within all the expectancy there are a couple of surprises. But it is confused because it's impossible to take "The Quick and the Dead" seriously as a western yet it's not a comedy and so floats uneasily in a strange limbo.
A female gunfighter known as 'The Lady' (Sharon Stone - Casino) rolls into the town of Redemption with one thing in mind, seeking justice for the death of her father when she was a little girl, something which has haunted her all her life. But to get to the man who caused her misery, John Herod (Gene Hackman - Narrow Margin) who owns the town, she has to participate in the daily gunfight competition where she makes some unlikely friends in 'The Kid' (Leonardo DiCaprio - This Boy's Life) and Cort (Russell Crowe - Virtuosity) a one time gun fighting partner of Herod who having turned his back on that life to be a Preacher is forced to participate.
There are very few westerns which break the mould when it comes to storyline and "The Quick and the Dead" is not one of them. Yes we have the quirk factor of a woman gunfighter instead of a man but get past that then the underlying storyline is that traditional return for revenge and justice, as used in more westerns than I care to remember. Credit where it's due and the added novelty factor of the majority of the action revolving round the daily gunfight competition gives it a different feel to many westerns. But strip all the gun fight competition and quirky characters away and it remains purely a return for justice movie.
Talking of quirky, "The Quick and the Dead" is definitely one of the quirkiest westerns I have seen. With a wide range of characters, some stereotypes and many which don't look suited to a western along with several one line put downs there are numerous moments where you can't but chortle at what is going on. I'm not even sure if those moments which raise a laugh were intentionally created for that reason as they feel rather strange, a little out of place in what first appears to be a pure western.
But it has to be said under the direction of Sam Raimi "The Quick and the Dead" is an absolute visual delight, which certainly isn't what you expect from a western. With close up camera work, stunning angles, slow motion and wide angle scenic shots it really is a movie which is stylish and visually impressive. Some of the close camera work on the guns is truly magnificent even breathe taking. But then just being a visual delight is not enough to cover up the plain sailing storyline.
It has to be said that Raimi took some brave choices with the casting no more so than choosing Sharon Stone to play the female gunfighter and even more braver to base the character on a classic western figure, well at least in the opening scenes. The trouble is that Sharon Stone is literally too beautiful to be convincing as the gunfighter returning for justice, no matter how much she tries to look moody or menacing that face just can't carry it out, often causing laughter because of it not being convincing. Now I know most Hollywood stars have a no nudity clause in their contract, but I reckon Stone had the opposite as there is no reason for the scene where she seduces Cort and shows her breasts at the same time. It's one of many scenes which feel drastically out of place and only inserted to be crowd pleasers.
To be honest whilst there are issues with Sharon Stones performance she does steal the show from the likes of Russell Crowe playing Cort the one time gunfighter now Preacher who is forced to take part. The Kid played by Leonardo DiCaprio who is desperate for his fathers acknowledgement who just happens to be John Herod, played by Gene Hackman, who is very much in the tradition of westerns with a bad guy character who runs the town. To be honest none of them put in a bad performance actually quite in keeping for what is at times a confused movie.
What this all boils down to is that "The Quick and the Dead" is a strange mix of things. It is a western with a traditional storyline and classy gunfights, but then it mixes things up with quirky characters none more so that having a female gunfighter lead the movie. It is a visual delight but it is for the most predictable and at times feels slightly at odds with itself when it can't decide on playing it for laughs or not. It's by no means a bad film, rather one which will certainly split audiences due to it being a mixed bag of things.