Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Today's Viewing & Review: The Quick And The Dead

The Quick And The Dead

1995 seems like a lifetime ago. Leonardo DiCaprio was embryonic and even more boyish, Russell Crowe was svelte and Sharon Stone could still get the lead role in a movie. There was a Western revival of sorts off the back of Unforgiven and Tombstone but this attempts to subvert most all that came before, not least by having its central lone rider a female. It’s entirely without any of the deeper themes prevalent in revisionist Westerns and is far more concerned with foregrounding comic elements missing from its wider genre stablemates.

To describe this in terms of a plot almost seems to be missing the point entirely. This is so lightweight as to be gossamer. The premise is so stripped-down that it contains no discernable set-up or convoluted set of circumstances to draw you in. Within mere minutes the film has established all it needs to establish and has removed all extraneous elements, leaving just barely-sketched characters and a raw scenario in the form of that most Western of staples; the shootout (in this case, a tournament). Disparate gunslingers (Crowe, DiCaprio and Stone among others) are assembled in a lawless town to compete for a prize offered by the crooked landowner (Gene Hackman), but some have come with another agenda. Nothing else is required, or offered - it’s a Western reduced to its barest essentials.

This is a cartoon in all but the fact it’s not animated. It’s like Wacky Races if cars were substituted for Smith & Wessons. It’s big and it’s dumb, gunshot wounds leave perfectly symmetrical holes right through their victims and characters are metaphorically (if not literally) 2-dimensional. Gene Hackman in particular snarls with relish and generally lords it over everyone else. Only Sharon Stone doesn’t fare so well, comparatively speaking, seeming generally ill at ease with her surroundings.

Despite an atypical genre, this is instantly recognisable as having Sam Raimi’s DNA running through it. It looks incredible and there’s a visceral energy and flow to proceedings. The constantly-roving camera tilts and swings in locked unison with objects on screen and gives them an anthropomorphic POV. It’s all very frantic but in the most controlled of manners. Flashy and lacking in maturity they may be, but the visual flourishes are countless and vastly inventive from the crash zooms to the askew angles and dolly zooms (‘Jaws shots’) stacked one on top of another. There’s a distinctive, almost metronomic, rhythm to the action scenes and the film is tight and punchy, never outstaying its welcome or outliving its slight premise.

It might make Back To The Future Part III look like The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford in terms of a realist depiction of the Old West but when it’s this much fun to watch that never matters. Perhaps ‘riveted’ is too strong but I was certainly fixed to the screen for the duration with a colossal grin plastered across my phizog.


No comments:

Post a Comment