The Quick and the Dead

The Quick and the Dead on Blu-ray Disc

Sam Raimi directs this Sharon Stone co-production about a woman bent on revenge who enters a gun fighting event as a way to kill the man who done her wrong.

Stone plays Ellen (a.k.a. “the lady”), a mysterious babe who shows up in the subtly-named town of Redemption, looking to exorcise her personal demons by offing town boss John Herod (Gene Hackman). She arrives on the eve of the Big Gun Fight, where gunslingers from all over compete for a huge cash award given to the last man (or, this year, woman) standing.

Herod is a real snake and we don’t for one moment think he won’t get his comeuppance - nor do we mind that it’s coming. But before that happens he, who appears to win the event whenever it’s held, will be challenged by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (as “the Kid”), Russell Crowe (as a former gunman turned preacher - who’s forced into the event by Herod), as well as colorful gunslingers played by journeyman performers such as Keith David and Lance Henriksen.

A series of flashbacks gives us increasing insight into what made Ellen who she is today, including a final one that really drives the point home.

But most of the movie follows the gunfights and the lead up to them. It’s a round robin-type thing where any challenger is free to challenge any comer, the shootouts taking place on the town’s main street at the stroke of whatever hour happens to be appointed.

We had steeled ourselves for some kind of feminist rant, but were pleasantly surprised to find that “the Quick and the Dead” is rather straightforward. Ellen’s part would have worked just as well if she’d been a haunted male rather than a haunted female - and the fact that they did make her a woman opened up some interesting “fish out of water” plot points including having DiCaprio's character become a wannabe love interest.

Stone carries off her role very well. She has good screen presence and is very believable. We’re left to wonder where Ellen has been for the past twenty years or so, but that’s not Stone’s fault and, to be fair, it doesn’t really affect the movie.

Hackman is always great and his bad guy here reminds us of his nasty turn in Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” Herod doesn’t do his own dirty work here, though, rather relying on intimidation and henchmen (people of hench?) to keep the townsfolk in line.

DiCaprio seems to us a very underrated actor and he always seems to turn in a good performance. This film is no different. His immature “legend in waiting” is carried off believably. Crowe is also very good as the bad man turned good who’s forced to do bad again but who manages to transcend that.

In the end, it’s a fairly predictable outcome but told with enough imagination - and featuring Sam Raimi’s typically good direction - that it works just fine.

Sony's Blu-ray treatment works as well, though it isnt going to win any awards. The picture quality is great but not excellent, with not much depth but with good color and image clarity. There's quite a bit of grain in places as well. But the 1080p pictur, presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, e overall is very watchable, though hardly reference quality.

The audio is offered in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround and while it also isn't referenc quality, does fill the room nicely , with great rumbling thunder and rain that surrounds us. Naturally, the gunfire also sounds very believable and the dialogue also comes through very well.

Alas, if you're looking for a lot of supplemental materials, you're out of luck here. All you get is "Movie IQ," which uses BD Live to give you "real-time, in movie information about the cast, crew, music and production." It's mildly interesting.

The Quick and the Dead - the Superbit Version, from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
105 min. 1080p widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround
Starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio
Produced by Joshua Donen, Allen Shapiro, Patrick Markey,
Written by Simon Moore, directed by Sam Raimi

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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