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The Quick and the Dead(1995)
A beautiful gunslinger with a cloudy past checks into the town of Redemption to join the annual quick-draw contest and get revenge on the man who ruined her life.
For more about The Quick and the Dead and the The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray release, see the The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on October 6, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobin Bell, Roberts Blossom
Director: Sam Raimi
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The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray Review
Sam Raimi's overlooked gem shines brightly on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, October 6, 2009
Some people deserve to die.
Think of Sam Raimi, and two words probably spring immediately to mind: "Horror" and Spider-Man. OK, maybe "Bruce Campbell," too. With the Spider-Man franchise raking in untold millions of dollars and Raimi returning to his Horror roots -- firmly secured in the Evil Dead trilogy -- with the critically-acclaimed Drag Me to Hell, his foray into the Western genre is understandably a mere afterthought when viewed within the context of the sum of his body of work. Nevertheless, The Quick and the Dead -- boasting perhaps the best cast Raimi has ever worked with -- stars a collection of "who's who" of Hollywood icons: Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Gene Hackman (Superman), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), and Russell Crowe (3:10 to Yuma). Not only does the film boast a fine collection of talent, but Raimi has injected The Quick and the Dead with so much fun, energy, and classic Western motifs that the movie has only one true flaw: it eventually has to end.
A lone female rides into the town of Redemption, population: shrinking. It's a lawless town where the stench of death hangs in the air and the local mortician sizes up every newcomer that rides in. The woman (Stone) has arrived for the Quick Draw competition, an event that pits one gunman against another in the ultimate in single-elimination tournament play. The rules are simple: the first man to capitulate (or die) is eliminated, and the winner lives to shoot another day. Shooters who draw or fire their weapon before the clocks strikes the top of the hour are shot on the spot by sharpshooters standing watch over the field of battle. The winner receives a cash prize of $123,000, courtesy of Wells Fargo Bank and local all-around bad guy John Herod (Hackman). Of course, Herod wouldn't hold the tournament if he didn't think he could win. Herod is the town tyrant; he takes half the income earned by the townsfolk and keeps them fearful of his wrath through his prowess in the competition, not to mention his hired goons that are armed to the teeth. With a number of shooters out to win the competition for their own reasons, including "the kid" (DiCaprio), and a pacifist preacher forced into the mix (Crowe), the stakes are high, the odds are long, and the guns are oiled. Ready, aim, fire.
The Quick and the Dead is a character-driven Western that builds an entire movie around the genre's trademark scene: the duel. Generally reserved for the final showdown between hero and villain on some town's dusty and manure-laden streets, The Quick and the Dead pits its characters one against another throughout, each with their own motives and all part of an eclectic bunch that add plenty of vibrancy to the picture. There's the quiet, revenge-minded female; the cocky and confident kid; the contest's sponsor and town tyrant; the preacher who has renounced violence; the Swedish gunslinger; the hired killer; the hard-to-kill Indian; the showy "Ace;" and many others. Though the $123,000 cash prize seems incentive enough, many fight for reasons that go beyond the dough. The Quick and the Dead builds its story on some fascinating character dynamics and motives that won't be spoiled here, but suffice it to say that they add a nice layer of tension, suspense, and outright shock to several revelations and further enhance the drama of some of the more important duels that define the film's final act and as it moves towards the inevitable final pair of showdowns.
Fortunately, the film's astounding collection of talent proves far more than mere window dressing. The Quick and the Dead boasts an A-list roster, and every character delivers a spot-on performance. They fully embrace their characters, understand the material and what Sam Raimi wants to do with it, and the result is a fluid, lifelike picture where every actor sheds their Hollywood sheen in favor of the rough-and-tumble, down-and-dirty attitude of Redemption. The cast features Sharon Stone in one of her last good roles before her star dimmed considerably in the years following Basic Instinct; the ever-reliable Gene Hackman is, yup, ever-reliable throughout The Quick and the Dead, delivering a pitch-perfect performance as the town's ruthless and strong but easygoing tyrant; a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio and a pre-L.A. Confidential, The Insider, and Gladiator Russell Crowe turn in spot-on performances as the all-too-cocky kid and the forced-into-action preacher. What's so special about the cast -- aside from the Oscar wins and nominations of its fab four -- is the quality of the supporting players. Also featuring Keith David (Requiem For a Dream), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Gary Sinise (Forrest Gump), Kevin Conway (Gettysburg), Tobin Bell (Saw), Pat Hingle (Batman), and Roberts Blossom (Home Alone), The Quick and the Dead is one of the more star-studded films in recent memory, and the movie is all the better for it.
Though The Quick and the Dead enjoys fantastic performances from a first-rate collection of stars, Sam Raimi is truly the highlight of the show. He captures the very essence of the Western; he doesn't mock the genre, but he embraces all the clichés to wonderful effect, including plenty of up-tight shots of gunfighters' concentrated eyes and steady hands as they prepare to draw on their opponent. He uses quick zooms, rapid cuts, and several wonderfully-realized cockeyed angles to frame the movie in the classic Western style. He also delivers a fabulous amount of tension to the proceedings, and each shootout is an event unto itself. Raimi overplays some of the film's more dramatic elements, too; a few come off as borderline cartoonish, but it works extraordinarily well in context. Even when the outcome of a duel -- particularly those early on and midway through the film -- isn't in doubt, Raimi manages to add a nice bit of tension to every moment. Nevertheless, the director saves his best work for the final act. It's no surprise as to who is left standing, but he certainly leads the audience to believe that almost any outcome is possible. Also featuring first-rate set and costume design and a classic Western score courtesy of Alan Silvestri (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), The Quick and the Dead is a complete motion picture and an under-appreciated classic within its genre.
The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Quick and the Dead wanders onto Blu-ray with a strong 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Despite the presence of some edge enhancement, The Quick and the Dead marks yet another Sony title that retains the look of film and features plenty of natural film grain over the entirety of the image. The film features a typical-of-Westerns dusty, worn appearance. Colors are naturally dim; only the bright blue sky seen in some scenes lends even a hint of vibrancy and contrast to an otherwise brown and tan-dominated palette that make up the majority of clothing, building façades, and the dirt road. Fine detail looks wonderful, and the lack of grain reduction allows the image to retain every nuance in every frame. Paint chips, dents, and scratches in doors; the gravel on and texture of the dirt road; the rusty and weathered town clock that signals the start of every duel; and the fine engraving on the various black powder and cartridge-based revolvers all look positively stunning. The Quick and the Dead's transfer also enjoys a fair sense of depth, solid blacks, and neutral skin tones. Despite the edge enhancement, this is another solid catalogue transfer from Sony.
The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Quick and the Dead shoots up sound systems with a sensational Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. The track makes extensive use of the entire soundstage, and as a result the wide-open spaces come alive with any and every small, nuanced sound and, of course, the bigger, more intense effects that make up the film's action scenes. Buzzing insects -- a crucial sonic element to any dusty, hot, outdoor Western -- may be heard buzzing from any given speaker at any give time. On one occasion, a thunderstorm engulfs the soundstage, with cracks of thunder heard off in the distance and seemingly all around the listener. Creaks in wooden floors bring the soundstage to life, practically placing the listener in the middle of the town's saloon. Horses run across the screen and, by extension, seemingly through the soundstage with a powerful trampling sensation. Voices and gunshots reverberate to excellent effect throughout the soundstage as well. In short, there's nary a moment where there isn't something going on -- cracks of gunfire or subtle background effects -- to completely immerse the listener into the film. The score sounds clear across the entire range, and parts of it feature a solid low end that doesn't shake the foundation but it does send palpable reverberations through the soundstage. Completed by faultless dialogue reproduction, The Quick and the Dead's soundtrack is a match for the film-like visuals, making the viewing experience complete.
The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of The Quick and the Dead features standard BD-Live functionality and Sony's "MovieIQ" that offers live, up-to-date details about every scene, including cast and crew filmographies and biographies, soundtrack listings, and more. Also included are 1080p trailers for The Da Vinci Code, Casino Royale, Ghostbusters, A River Runs Through It, Damages: Season One, The Sky Crawlers, Tyson, Rudo Y Cursi, and Sugar.
The Quick and the Dead Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Simply put, The Quick and the Dead is a whole lot of fun, in large part because it's clear the filmmakers had a blast when putting this one together. Though it's a serious movie, it offers a light tone, but not so light so as to minimize the tension and drama of the shootouts or the characters' plights and motives. Superbly directed by Sam Raimi, wonderfully acted by one of the more talented casts ever assembled, and delivering everything a Western fan could want , The Quick and the Dead is one of the best of its kind and an overlooked classic in American cinema's most storied genre. Sony's Blu-ray release delivers a superb technical presentation but lacks any substantive bonus materials. Nevertheless, fans will want to pick this up thanks to the high quality film-like transfer and excellent lossless soundtrack. Enthusiastically recommended.
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