The Quick and the Dead, by Albert W. Vogt III

Whatever happened to Sharon Stone?  Given some of the movies she became famous for in the 1990s, it is probably a good thing that we have not heard much from her in recent years.  A look at her filmography on the International Movie Database (IMDb) will show you that she has been working since the 1990s, quite a lot, actually.  The problem is the type of films in which she appeared.  Titles like Basic Instinct (1992) and Sliver (1993) push up against the borders of being pornographic.  I have seen neither of them, but they do have a certain reputation, which can also be an issue.  When you get typecast, while it can give you a career, it can also mean that when attitudes and tastes change, you are less often found in the spotlight.  This is part of the reason of what makes a film like The Quick and the Dead (1995) interesting.  While there is that scene where they just had to, for no reason, give glimpses of Sharon Stone’s body, the rest is instead this perceived sex object showing off her acting chops.  Her performance is okay, nothing special, but at least it is something different.

The Quick and the Dead is a Western, and as many of its ilk do, it starts with a lone rider arriving in town.  The town is called Redemption, which conveniently provides the theme for the film, but the twist is that it is a woman, Ellen (Sharon Stone), referred to most of the time as the Lady.  She is there for one purpose: to find and kill John Herod (Gene Hackman).  Herod is a long-time outlaw, but he has settled into Redemption and made it his own.  By this I mean he has burned down and driven off the local representative of the law, as is evidenced by the ashen heap of the Marshal’s office Ellen rides past on her way into town.  Her desire for revenge is motivated by the fact that Herod had killed her father, also a United States Marshal (Gary Sinise), when she was a little girl (Stacy Linn).  Actually, another flashback later reveals that while Herod had her dad strung up with a noose, Ellen had been given the chance to shoot her father free, only to miss the mark and put a bullet in his brain.  Everyone else gathering in Redemption is there for a special competition being staged by the slightly more aged, but no less fast with a pistol, Herod.  He is bringing together gunfighters from around the West to see who is the quickest draw.  This is revealed to Ellen the first night in the saloon, though at first she wants no part of the proceedings.  What changes her mind is when a man dressed as a preacher is brought into the bar as the other competitors are entering their names.  This is Cort (Russell Crowe), and he is in chains, having been captured by Herod’s men after they raided his mission.  Cort had once been an associate of Herod’s, and he is the only man that seems capable of unnerving the old outlaw.  Yet, Cort had left the life of a desperado in order to pursue a different calling, and he is refusing to be a part of these deadly matches.  Herod claims that once a person is a killer, they are always a killer.  In order to convince him to enter the contest, Herod has Cort strung up in a manner eerily similar to how her father was killed, forcing her to shoot him down before it could end in his untimely death.  From that point on, the Lady is in the running.  At first, the matches are for whoever can simply disarm and/or wound their opponent first.  What changes Herod’s mind in this regard is the presence of his cocky son Fee (Leonardo DiCaprio), otherwise known as “The Kid.”  While there is no filial warmth between father and the son, Herod nonetheless attempts to convince the Kid to withdraw from the contest.  His first method is by saying that the son is not as fast as the father.  When that does not deter Fee, it is by changing the rules so that whoever is the victor of each showdown will be the one left alive.  All this, of course, is going against the avowed pacifist principles of Cort, though he is given a rusty, barely functioning pistol with one bullet and made to fight anyway.  All is not as Herod supposes, however.  For one thing, the town is against his iron fisted, thug enforced rule.  They had pooled their resources and hired a professional gunman, Sergeant Clay Cantrell (Keith David), to kill Herod.  Herod figures this out, and challenges Sergeant Cantrell, killing him after the rules are amended.  Their next hope lies with the Kid, who manages to wound his father but not before taking a fatal shot to the stomach.  As Fee dies, Herod claims that the young man was never actually his son.  Ellen next has to face Cort, who begs her to kill him, but when she hesitates he draws and fires.  The town doctor, Doc Wallace (Roberts Blossom) comes out and declares her dead, leaving just Cort and Herod.  Herod is in for a surprise, though, as it had been part of a plan on Ellen’s part to destroy Herod’s seat of power, which she does with explosives just before the final match occurs.  With Cort’s help, she kills Herod and they defeat his men.  She leaves town in the final moments of the movie, giving her father’s marshal’s badge to Cort.

As mentioned earlier, The Quick and the Dead’s main theme is redemption.  Ellen’s is obvious, wanting to avenge the murder of her father.  This is not the kind of redemption the Bible would tell you to pursue.  The first definition of the word is more Biblical, as in saving somebody from sin.  This is what Jesus came to do, and He did not need gunfights to accomplish it.  The second definition is more along the lines of clearing a debt, and that is what Ellen hoped to achieve.  The one I would focus on more in regards to the earlier meaning of the word is Cort.  Of course, my Catholic eyes noted how much he looked like a priest when he first shows up in the movie, although I doubt that is what they were going for with his character.  Besides, he slowly has all of this stripped away, prominently his collar, as the film continues.  By the end, he is firing away at Herod’s men while the buildings around him are shattered by Ellen’s explosives.  What I would hang onto in regards to his Christian characteristics are his reluctance to take part in the contest, the kindness he displays towards others, and his willingness to sacrifice himself.  The Bible says that there is no greater honor than to lay down your life for another.  This should not mean that one needs to be suicidal.  As long as there is breath in your lungs, you should seek to do good for others.  Him taking up the gun is more because that is what he is forced to do.  It is not perfect.  A true believer might refuse anyway and face death, though the opposite reaction is understandable.  Still, I believe his reluctance should count for something.

I was a little surprised when I noticed that Sam Raimi directed The Quick and the Dead.  If you are not familiar, he did some of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies.  He also directed the recently released Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.  If nothing else, it is a fun little fact I thought I would share with you.  As for The Quick and the Dead, it is a decent Western.  I could do without the scenes of Sharon Stone furtively displaying her lady bits, but they are brief.  If you are in the mood for a solid genre film, you can do worse than this one.

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