Stop me if you’ve heard this one…a mysterious drifter comes to town with a purpose only known to her.
Ellen wanders into a small town ruled by Herod. Every year, Herod holds a quick draw competition. Gunfighters from all over come to show off their skills. He is a cruel and vindictive man. He has a former partner in crime, Cort, in chains. Cort walked away from his criminal ways and became a preacher. But Herod is trying to push Cort into cast away his faith.
Ellen is a hard drinking and tortured woman. She has arrived for the competition. But as she grows closer to her goal of fighting Herod, the weight of vengeance starts to wear her down. She takes some comfort with Herod’s young and cocky son, called the Kid.
The Kid is tired of living under his father’s shadow. This is one of the closest points to being human Herod has. He tries to force the Kid out of the contest when it is clear the kid aims to go against his father.
Meanwhile, Cort tries to convince Ellen to walk away…leading to Herod seeing an opportunity and set Ellen and Cort against each other a shootout to the death.
If this sounds like a mass of western cliches…well, it should. This is the point of Sam Raimi’s film. He is paying a very loving homage to the classic spaghetti western. At the same time, this is shot with the classic Raimi style. Weird angles, impossible visuals and over the top characters.
This is Gene Hackman at his scene chewing best. His performance as Herod is the classic “Evil Town Leader” mold, and a whole lot of fun. As the Kid, Leonardo DiCaprio is a lot of fun to watch. He is immensely over confident, but that is kind of his charm. Russell Crow’s performance as Cort is a bit more understated. And it serves the character well. Cort is a bit like Bill Munny from Unforgiven in that he turned from evil and seeks a more righteous path. But his past refuses to make this easy.
Raimi fills the background with a remarkable cast of character actors. Lance Henrickson is the fancy Gambler and gunfight Ace. Keith David is the bounty hunter hired by the town to kill Herod.
The Quick and the Dead is a great love letter to the westerns of Sergio Leone and entertaining as all git out.