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Saturday, July 14, 2018
The Quick and the Dead a number one 4K disc with a bullet
Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead is an
interesting yarn featuring some tight writing and fine performances from an ensemble
of very good thespians. It also sports a really good 4K HDR transfer that makes
it even better.
The Western drama stars Sharon Stone (who also
co-produced), Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. All are, or
were, gunslingers who congregate in a nondescript one-horse town called
Redemption for a gunfighting competition in which all comers shoot it out with
whoever challenges them, the winner taking home a huge pot (well, chest) of
Stone is a woman bent on revenge against
Hackman, whose character owns the town and everyone in it and who is also the
target (figuratively and/or literally) of nearly every other gunslinger who
shows up. Well, some are just there for the money, but Hackman's character is
such a horrible person that it seems as if everyone wants him dead - and if they
didn't want him dead when they got to Redemption, they undoubtedly did once
they'd stuck around a bit.
And with good reason! If you thought Hackperson's
character as the sheriff in Unforgiven was a nasty guy, "Quick'n'Dead's"
John Herod makes Little Bill Daggett look like a saint!
Stone's Ellen (a.k.a. "the lady")
arrives in Redemption on the eve of the Big Gun Fight, when they're putting
together the "pecking order" for the contest. Besides Hackman, she's
joined by Leonardo DiCaprio's "the Kid", Russell Crowe as a former
gunman and associate of Herod who has seen the error of his ways and turned
preacher but gets forced into the event by Herod. Also along for the high
calibre contest are gunslingers played by such journeyman performers as Keith
David and Lance Henriksen.
Also on hand in supporting roles are Pat Hingle
and Gary Sinise.
Flashbacks during the movie give us increasing
insight into what made Ellen who she is today, the final one really packing a
wallop of little girl angst. But the lion's share of the movie follows the
gunfight, the round robin-type thingy where any challenger can challenge any other
comer, the subsequent shootouts taking place on the town's main street at the
stroke of whatever hour on the town's big clock happens to be appointed by the
When I first reviewed The Quick and the Dead
Blu-ray several years ago, I was steeled for some kind of feminist rant (since
Stone co-produced and was the main protagonist), but was surprised pleasantly to
find that the story 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 isn't
that what feminism is supposed to be about?). Meanwhile, the fact that they did make her a woman opened up some
interesting "fish out of water" plot points, including DiCaprio's
character becoming a wannabe love interest.
Stone does a good job here, with good screen
presence and a believable performance. And she's no sexpot, like in such flicks
as Basic Instinct and the original Total Recall. We're left to wonder where she's
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 story.
Hackman is always great (I still love him as
Lex Luthor in the only good Superman movie)
and his bad guy character here is just as megalomaniacal, but there's no
comedic edge at all. And unlike his tough as nails Unforgiven character, however,
Herod doesn't do his own dirty work here, relying instead on intimidation and
people of hench to keep the townsfolk in line.
DiCaprio has turned in a good performance in
whatever film of his I've seen, from Titanic to The Aviator. And the Quick and
the Dead is no different. His immature "legend in waiting" is carried
off believably and I found myself on the fence when trying to decide if I'd be
happier were his character to die or not. Crowe is also very good as the bad
man turned good, who's forced to be bad again in order to survive.
In the end, the outcome is fairly predictable
but the tale is told with enough imagination - and featuring Sam Raimi's
typically good direction (except for a few artsy-fartsy shots that seem out of
place) - that it works just fine. The film has a terrific look, too.
I'm a Sam Raimi fan, though I've only seen a
few of his movies. My favourite is Army of Darkness (Quick and Dead is his
follow up to that fabulous guilty pleasure), as well as the first two
Spider-man movies, but he's done plenty more besides that.
Sony's 4K disc works, too. The picture quality
is great overall, with fantastic colour and great blacks and a very filmlike
look. There's a lot of grain, and that can make the picture look a little rough
in places, but overall it works very nicely. The town's weathered and worn look
comes through beautifully, and some of the closeups, especially of faces and
costumes, look top notch.
The HDR-10 treatment helps a lot, too. Dark
scenes benefit in particular, but you can see the effect nearly everywhere,
whether the dirt streets, wooden buildings, whatever. I liked the picture of
the original Blu-ray (one comes in the 4K UHD package as well), but this is a definite
and noticeable upgrade.
The audio is offered in Dolby Atmos, which
defaults to Dolby TrueHD surround for those without Atmos capability and it fills
the room beautifully, with great rumbling thunder and rain that surrounds us, fabulous
gunshots, and character voices that are placed around the room to great effect.
This is the first 4K Ultra HD disc I can
remember that offers extra material on the 4K disc, though they might as well
not have. They consist of seven "never before seen" deleted scenes
and, while they're interesting enough, there's a reason they ended up on the
cutting room floor.
The Quick and the Dead is an unconventional
Western and it works very well on many levels, with a compelling screenplay, terrific
cast and an accomplished director. As a 4K disc it isn't really reference
quality like some newer movies are, but it looks and sounds great in the home