As good-natured burlesque, it is a rib-tickling look at the cliches that pepper every Western we have ever loved.

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


The only thing that could ruin the fun of "The Quick and the Dead" would be a denial from its makers that it is a spoof. As good-natured burlesque, it is a rib-tickling look at the cliches that pepper every Western we have ever loved. Sharon Stone has co-produced and stars, with what I hope dearly is a wink in her eye.

She sets the tone with a rollicking entrance, upending any man who dares to underestimate her. Riding into the town of Redemption, she is greeted by the lone barking dog, the empty street, and the mandatory saloon, where the first man she meets swills beer and knifes a body-count notch on his arm.

No one rides quietly into this town. After crossing the endless desert, they still gallop up to the saloon, slam mugs on the bar, and shoot each other up for no apparent reason. But we do have a story here: All the best shots in the West have come to challenge each other in a round-robin shootout on Redemption's main street, where the sun blazes and rain pours at the whim of director Sam Raimi.

Whoever is alive at the end of the grizzly game can claim the Wells Fargo chest stuffed with $100,000. Will it be Knudson, the Swede? Or Ace, long-haired, middle-aged, and brutal? Spotted Horse, the wooden Indian? It might be Kid, the chair kicker; or Herod (Gene Hackman), the immaculately oily dude who controls the town and takes a cut of every paycheck--although God alone knows where anyone might earn a paycheck in this sandy speck of a town.

The wild cards in the game are "The Lady" (Sharon Stone) and Cort, the ex-gunslinger turned preacher who refuses to draw his gun in anger.

Every major event is trumpeted by the distant clanking of spurs and lingering shots of long, lean legs leading upward to the final "Guess Who?" We are treated to a fashion show as the nervous contestants face off, dressed to kill in sombreros, black hats, ministerial collars, clean white shirts, and black vests--Ralph Lauren with mud and blood.

The men are brown-toothed caricatures who turn bestial as they kill, uttering lines like, "Some people deserve to die," and "You're dead meat." The women are simpering, pretty little hookers--except, of course, for "The Lady," who is vengeance, truth, beauty, and a fast draw all wrapped in one glorious package.

Sharon Stone, jawbones jerking with controlled rage, is absolutely terrific in her shrink-wrapped chaps. Gene Hackman is rotten perfection, as in, "I always wanted to fight you. It's an itch I had to scratch." Russell Crowe is heavenly repentance as the preacher. Most of them will die clutching their bullet holes, and some will rise again, the death of choice still owing a lot to "Fatal Attraction." What more could we possibly ask?

Good job, Sharon, as long as you promise us you're kidding.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 501
Studio: Tri-Star
Rating: R 1h43m


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