January 3, 2013

The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Russell Crowe

Comments:  In 1995, Sharon Stone starred in a movie called The Quick and the Dead.  It was the story of a female gunfighter in the Old West.  And, well, as you can probably imagine, it flopped just about as hard as you expect that a western starring Sharon Stone would flop.  After all, nobody likes Sharon Stone.  And nobody likes westerns.  And the combination of the two of them was pretty much the opposite of the Keymaster meeting the Gatekeeper.  It was just a pointless combination for everyone.

Our hero

But here is the thing.  The Quick and the Dead isn't just good, it is fucking amazing.  It is by far one of my favorite movies of the past twenty years.  And every time I watch it I find myself liking it more and more.  And I actually kick myself that it took me so long to finally give in to my anti Sharon Stone western prejudice and actually give it a chance.

Oh yeah, Mary's stepfather from There's Something About Mary is in it too

So what makes The Quick and the Dead so good?  What turns it from being "some dumb western starring Sharon Stone that flopped at the box office" to "one of Mario's all time favorite movies"?  

Well, for starters, it was mostly the director.

The Quick and the Dead was directed by Sam Raimi, who along with James Cameron is one of my two favorite directors of all time.  And the reason I say that is because anything that Raimi directs is immediately identifiable.  There is no way you can watch a Sam Raimi movie and think it was directed by anyone but him.  From The Evil Dead movies, to Army of Darkness, to the first two Spider Man movies, to Drag Me to Hell, Raimi has this quirky inimitable style that nobody else in Hollywood could ever pull off.  For lack of a better term, his movies are just Sam Raimi movies.  And The Quick and the Dead might be the Sam Raimiest Sam Raimi movie of them all.

Want an example of what a Sam Raimi movie looks like?  Check out the camera angles and the zoom cuts in this scene from the Quick and the Dead.  It is basically just Sam playing around with a camera and seeing what weird cartoony angles and shots he can come up with.  And this movie is chock full of weird little Sam Raimi jump cuts and spin zooms like that.

Or shots like this, where Sam Raimi shoots a scene through a bullet hole in the back of a guy's head

I would recommend the Quick and the Dead just for the Sam Raimi factor alone, because honestly I would recommend any Sam Raimi movie to you.  His stuff is just always that interesting.

But what REALLY kicks the Quick and the Dead up in the awesomeness factor is the cast.  

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Sharon Stone is the star.  And Sharon Stone sucks.  Look, I hear you.  And I get it.  But let me point out that this movie also stars Gene Hackman as one of the scummiest movie villains of all time.  And it also stars Leonardo DiCaprio about two years before he hit it big with Titanic.  And it also stars Russell Crowe a few years before anyone knew who he was in America.  Oh and it also stars Gary Sinise.  And Roberts Blossom (the shovel slayer from Home Alone).  Oh yeah, and it also stars Jigsaw from the Saw movies.  Basically this movie is just chock full of big name stars and quirky little character actors.  And yes, of course it also stars Sharon Stone.  Who I would like to point out is not even all that bad in this.

Russell Crowe, about a year before anyone knew who he was

By the way, in defense of Sharon Stone, I should point out that the only reason Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe were even in this movie was because Stone knew they were going to be big stars in America and she begged the producers to cast them.  In fact I have heard that she personally paid DiCaprio's salary out of her own pocket, just because she was that sure that he was going to be an enormous movie star one day.  Which just goes to prove the old theory that Sharon Stone might not be that great an actress, but she is way smarter than you.  Seriously, look it up.  Sharon Stone has a reported IQ of 154.

"You stay away from that Rose DeWitt Bukater girl.  She's too fat and you both won't be able to fit on that piece of wood in the ocean.  I'm warning you!"

Take a movie with a ton of big name stars, add the quirkiest and most unique director you can think of, throw in a storyline that would fight right in with a Quentin Tarantino revenge cartoon, and voila.  You have the Quick and the Dead.  A movie that flopped big time at the box office in 1995, but has since amassed a small but very devoted cult fan following.  Seriously, I watch this movie at least once a year and I am always amazed by it.  It is the perfect mixture of parody and seriousness.  Sam Raimi takes a genre that a lot of people are very bored with (the western), and he completely mocks it while at the same time creating a loving homage to it.  It is one of those movies that you just have to see to believe.

Oh, did I mention that the whole movie is basically one big gunfighter tournament between over the top cartoon characters?  Did I not actually mention that before?

John Herod, one of the greatest movie villains ever

In short, there are very few movies that I can recommend as highly as I recommend The Quick and the Dead.  It is one of my all time favorites, it was made by one of my all time favorite directors, and it stars one of my all time favorite casts.  Oh yeah, and it also has one of the very best movie scores I have ever heard in my life.  Seriously, if you only watch The Quick and the Dead for one reason, watch it for the music.  It is one of those rare times where the music just fits the movie PERFECTLY.  

* My Favorite Quick and the Dead Trivia from IMDB:
- All of the actors on the set in the gunfight scenes were instructed in the art of the quick draw by a stunt coordinator. Due to his limited screen time, Gene Hackman had the most opportunity to prepare his quick draw and as a result was the fastest actor on the set.

- For obvious reasons, this is the only Sam Raimi film to date (2002) where his trademark beige 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 doesn't appear in its original form. However, according to Bruce Campbell, the car makes an appearance in the form of a wagon's chassis. He claims the car was disassembled and the chassis was used for the wagon.

- According to the "Evil Dead Companion", Sharon Stone was given a lengthy list of directors that had been approved to direct this film, so that she could choose the directors she thought would work. She sent back a list with a single name... Sam Raimi. When asked why she chose Raimi, she said it was because she liked Army of Darkness, among Raimi's other works.

* My favorite IMDB user reviews about The Quick and the Dead

Completely misunderstood classic! - 20 December 2004
I really don't get, or care about, the criticism this movie receives. I found it to be infinitely cool. I love the characters. The direction is confident and unique. The cinematography (by the always superb Dante Spinotti) and art direction are wonderful.

Sam Raimi caught a lot of heat for this one. I guess it was too stylish for the bland, vanilla, popcorn crowd. And, in ways, it gave him a sense of timidness in his following few pictures. But, with Spiderman, people finally wised up to the fact that this guy is fantastic.

I highly recommend this film, and other Raimi classics, such as: Darkman and Army of Darkness.

Raimi shoots again - 27 April 2004

I've never been a western fan, but this film really got me.

It has a lot of good features: A great casting, good duel scenes and Raimi behind the camera:

The actors play their characters very good, with Stone, Hackman and Crowe in the lead. The fight scenes are great, short but intense at the same time. Sometimes besides you can imagine who's gonna be the winner you can't figure how the fight is going to end. And Raimi proves again to be an excellent director. There are some shots that make you recognize him, and a lot of scenes that will make you say "Wow!!" (Don't forget that hole in the head... the first time I saw the movie, I had to rewind to watch it again!).

If you like westerns, you will probably like this film. If you don't, you may like it too, like I did.

Exaggerated, intense, beautiful, silly - 6 July 2000
Like all of Sam Raimi's movies, this flick was a cartoon. That's not an insult- his works with the Coen brothers on movies like The Hudsucker Proxy are some of my favorites, with their insanely "zoomed-in" quality. This movie was a spaghetti western, it was ABOUT spaghetti westerns, and it was also a weird, wonderful nightmare where your options are limited, you're a superhero, and your enemy is all-powerful. That's adolescent, silly, and totally compelling.

Raimi has always done brilliant visuals; I don't know his history, but I suspect he read a lot of pulp comics as a kid. The early scene where Stone gets up (after playing dead) and you see her shadow putting her hat back on, with the obvious bullet hole in the brim, is sheer visual brilliance.

Gene Hackman is, of course, great. Sharon Stone has gotten a lot of static for doing what Clint Eastwood built a legend on: bad acting, done intensely. (And in Stone's case in this flick, I think, purposefully.) Leonardo D. is well-cast as a cocky, yet needy, "bad-a** in his own mind" type. Russell Crowe (who nobody knew at the time, especially me) is great in his role as a survivor of a 12-step program to help fight a dependence on violence, complete with backsliding moments.

Do not look to this movie expecting anything like realism, believability, or moderation. This is pulp fiction, eye candy, nightmare surrealism, wanton entertainment. It's trash culture saluting trash culture, and if you can appreciate that, it's a hell of a great ride.

Underrated, underrated, underrated... - 20 March 2002
It infuriates me to think of how damn underrated Sam Raimi's terrific "The Quick and the Dead" is. Of course 90's wasn't the greatest western decade considering the whole genre was practically dead at the time. There's still couple of marvelous exceptions. "The Quick and the Dead" is one of the finest and after a moment Geoff Murphy's stylish "The Last Outlaw" starring Mickey Rourke comes to mind too. I loved it, critics didn't. Both of these films are mostly a hidden parodies of old (spaghetti) westerns but when it works, it works. Some of the best camera-angles of "The Quick and the Dead" are just excellent. Script is witty, acting is enjoyable.

Sharon Stone is incredibly good in her leading role of a "female Eastwood" Ellen. Leo DiCaprio offers pretty nice performance as Kid and other actors hardly disappoint either. It's obvious we wouldn't have this movie without Clint Eastwood's awarded masterpiece, spectacular "Unforgiven" - classic that resurrected westerns for a while. When I look at "The Quick and the Dead" I can't help of thinking that even legendary Gene Hackman is back in the role that's actually very similar to what he had in "Unforgiven". If you're a diehard-western fan who also understands something about parody I'm sure you'll find "The Quick and the Dead" an excellent movie. It basically circles around one good idea and I enjoyed every minute of it. Highly entertaining stuff.

* My Favorite Scene in The Quick and the Dead:
I could name about 20 different scenes that I love in The Quick and the Dead, but the first one that comes to mind is that Spotted Horse cannot be killed by a bullet.  You'll know it when you see it.

Spotted Horse

The Quick and the Dead at the IMDB

The Quick and the Dead at Wikipedia

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