The Quick and the Dead a number one 4K disc with a bullet
By Jim Bray
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 money.
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 event organizers.
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 theatre anyway.
Copyright 2018 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.