I’m not saying that The Quick and the Dead (1995) is one of my guilty pleasure movies, but Sony Movie Channel ran it back to back tonight and I watched it both times.
This was a Sharon Stone led picture back when she was THE femme fatale in the 90s. You can tell it’s meant to be her picture because she does all this slow-burn enigmatic thousand-yard-stare stuff so we know she’s Tough but Vulnerable and also all her gunfighter clothes are really well tailored.
Oh, and her hair looks great, with zero hat-head.
She’s also the only person in this movie who takes it dead serious. Everyone else seems to recognize it for what it is—a straight up spaghetti western that hits every spaghetti western beat. Which is not a criticism. There are certain types of genre movies (and *ahem* books) that are a certain thing, and I love them for it. The Alan Silvestri score channels Elmer Bernstein and (this may be sacrilege to say) Ennio Morricone, the cinematography has these droll nods to the genre, and if director Sam Raimi tips over into camp just a bit, well…it’s not High Noon, even if it cribs from it.
But none of that makes me watch it.
In fact, I didn’t even watch it on purpose the first time. I was flipping channels, and it caught my eye.
Hey! A female gunslinger in a spaghetti western. What could I, author of a book with a female highway-person in a swashbuckling adventure novel, find interesting about that? Then right as I’m on the bubble about whether I want to stay tuned despite (sorry 😦 ) the lead mistaking deadpan for enigmatic…
Hang on a mo–
Is that Russell Crowe??
Is that…OMG…is that a smooth-faced, pre-Titanic LEONARDO DICAPRIO???
Yes and yes.
I think this must have been one of Russell Crowe’s first American movies.* It was before LA Confidential. And Leo–I just looked it up. Forget Titanic. He hadn’t even done Romeo+Juliet yet.**
The villain is Gene Hackman, as the mayor (I guess?) of this town, who takes 50% of what anyone earns and once a year has this quick-draw gunslinger contest. None of which is really important, because if you have ever seen a Western before, you will immediately be able to figure out who is what in this movie. I tuned in 30 minutes in the first time, and I was like: okay, girl is avenging her father, boy is the villain’s son, Russell is ex-gunslinger looking for redemption. (Because the town is called Redemption. Get it?)
None of that is a complaint, either. The Old West of this kind of movie, which came from pulp novels before that, is a kind of American myth, as much as Robin Hood, or the Knights of the Round Table. And like any myth, it’s going to have certain archetypes. Redemption and revenge are two big ones.
Anyway, I went online to look a few things up before I started this post and I was…not entirely surprised that not everyone likes this movie as much as I do. Not going to lie—a big part of my enjoyment is watching Crowe* and DiCaprio before they were giant stars. Maybe low expectations is another. And I am disposed to love a gunslinger Western.
I’ll forgive a lot in a movie if something resonates with me, like a particular theme or character, or good acting in a mediocre movie.Maybe even in a bad movie.
Anything with sword fights or giant monsters or robots (or giant robots sword-fighting giant monsters) starts with bonus points, not going to lie.***
As an author, you get asked (a lot), “Where do you get your ideas?” I have a friend who jokes about having an idea tree in the back yard. But it’s not a bad metaphor. They don’t really drop out of the sky. You kind of grow the ideas from the seeds of all the things that you love—a type of story, a trope, a certain character, setting, or even just an image that sticks with you.
After that it’s more a case of picking the things that will work together…and hoping that other people will dig the same things you do.
*So, a little Kara trivia: I saw Gladiator at a formative point in my life, and I have a thing for vintage Crowe.
**Also playing contestants in the contest that made me go “HEY! It’s—” are Bishop from Aliens (Lance Henrickson), and the guy who is the voice of Goliath from Gargoyles (Keith David). Keith David was also in Pitch Black, another movie that is (subjectively) better than it should be.
***Anything with Johnny Depp starts with a deduction. It’s a measure of how much I love ships and swords that I actually enjoyed the first Pirates of the Carribean.
****Well, a little really. But then I stopped reading reviews—problem solved.