• Sam Raimi’s sixth film assembles a dream cast and crew. This was largely Sharon Stone’s project (she had a hand in the casting as well- including selecting Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe at a time when they were not yet Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe) and she was a massive star in 1995 (this is still in the wake of 1992’s Basic Instinct– and the same year as Casino). Gene Hackman had a boom in 1992 as well with Unforgiven. Leonardo DiCaprio is 21 years old- and this is after his breakout in 1993 with This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Russell Crowe is a decade older- and this now is his first film in the archives (I need another look at Romper Stomper). Keith David, Gary Sinise and other talented actors (“Saw” from Saw is here- Tobin Bell, the robot from Aliens– Lance Henriksen, and the neighbor from Home Alone- Roberts Scott Blossom) round out the ensemble.
  • As if the cast was not enough, Dante Spinotti (Michael Mann’s go-to- The Last of the Mohicans, Heat) is the cinematographer.
  • Raimi’s film is filled with cinema style. The work owes a great deal to Sergio Leone. The casting of Woody Strode- Once Upon a Time in the West– is just one of the many nods to this.
  • Most of the Leone-like touches work, one notable exception is Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future, Predator)’s score. Silvestri doing Silvestri is fine—even sometimes exceptional- but Silvestri doing Morricone just does not work. It has trumpets, a whistle—apes Morricone- and sounds like an amateur’s attempt. If that wasn’t enough- it changes into an entirely different score later (be bad, but don’t be bad AND inconsistent).
  • The set up is this is a town owned by the malevolent Gene Hackman character and there is a quick draw competition- so a series of duels to the death.

a sublime matte painting

  • Poor DiCaprio has come off better in just about every other film he’s been in. He looks like Arnie from Gilbert Grape dressed up as a cowboy on Halloween. Crowe looks like the future star here- he clearly has screen presence and looks like a natural in the wild west.

Despite the big name actors, the star of the show is Raimi. At the 25-minute mark there is a jaw-dropper of a split diopter. “Some people deserve to die” as Stone is in the foreground right and Hackman is in the background left. There is a dedication to composition, depth of field and the split diopter throughout.

  • Raimi’s achievement is not just restricted to the mise-en-scene arrangements, in Leo’s first duel, a magnificent zoom-heavy, rapidly edited closeup montage is used (a fitting homage to Leone). There is another such sequence in Crowe’s first duel. Raimi’s confident vigor is shown in some fervent whip pans as well.

Raimi’s camera is very involved- and he is always interested in capturing the action in fascinating angles. There is a constant attention to the background as well as the foreground action.

  • Hackman and Crowe come off the best in the cast. Hackman casts a big shadow playing a loathsome SOB- “If you live to see the dawn it’s because I allow it.” Ebert says of Hackman “… there was never a line of Hackman dialogue that didn’t sound as if he believed it”  https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-quick-and-the-dead-1995

At the 84-minute mark a series of dolly zooms are used for the battle between Leo and Hackman. At the 88-minute mark Crowe is in the foreground left in profile—while Stone is in the background right. At the 95-minute mark Crowe is foreground left, Hackman background right in the final showdown. Just after that at the 97-minute mark there is a low angle shot of the Marshall’s badge as the camera tiles up at Hackman. This is Orson Welles’s oblique angles.

  • Raimi’s instincts are not perfect (he is not Leone or Welles)—the roadrunner sound effects is one trait that is unmissably his- and the film would be better without them.
  • Highly Recommend- top 10 of the year quality film- makes it one of the more underrated films of 1995.