Rated: R for language and violence. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: February 10, 1995 Released by: Columbia TriStar
Sharon Stone stars as a female Clint Eastwood in Sam Raimi's fast, supercharged western.
As co-producer, Stone had a hand in choosing her costars and she had good sense to hire Gene Hackman as the villain. In fact, all the roles are superbly cast.
Stone plays Ellen, a disheveled, determined sharp shooter, who rides into a pathetic little town called Redemption to sign up for a shooting contest.
The $123,000 prize offered by the sadistic, self-appointed mayor, John Herod (Gene Hackman) brings in killers from all over the country, looking for easy money. But, Ellen wants her chance at Herod for personal reasons. As shown through flashbacks, she's bent on revenge.
The contestants are quite a bunch of sorry-looking characters. There's an American Indian who's proud of his numerous bullet wounds and a baby-faced kid (played by the talented Leonardo DiCaprio), who challenges his father, Herod, to prove his worthiness. A hired killer-turned-preacher (Russell Crowe) and a leather-cad trick shooter (Lance Hendrickson) are some of the more colorful characters. Since the winner of each challenge moves on to the next round and the loser's carried off in a pine box, their first shot is mighty important.
Stone, like her predecessors, is a heroine of few words. With an ever-present cigarillo clenched tightly between her perfect teeth, she glowers a lot. Hackman has most of the dialogue and as a bad guy, there are few that can compare. He spews hatred with a gleam in his eye, and he looks as if he's having a terrific time.
The contest takes place in the middle of town with a huge clock ticking off the minutes until the next shoot out. The camera closes in on each face, then the clock, to the twitching hand on the gun, and back to the shooter's face again. AThe scenes are slow, deliberate and lingering.
To add to the tongue-in-check atmosphere, Raimi shows huge gaping holes where bullets make contact with flesh, you can see clear to Phoenix through them. Nothing is sacred here, as soon as the losers are pronounced dead, the townspeople descend to them to strip off their clothing, boots and for those who have any, even their teeth.
Last year, we had Meryl Streep taking over the Sly Stallone part in The River Wild, this year it's Sharon Stone stepping into Eastwood's boots. Next year, who knows? Maybe A Few Good Women?
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