Sharon Stone is, basically, The Woman With No Name in this neo-spaghetti Western directed by Sam Raimi. Stone fans will be disappointed it does not show off her best sizzling assets, and the film’s tedious, monotonic violence will likely only appeal to Raimi cultists.
With a cheroot stuck square in her maw and a pearly six-gun at her hip, Stone does her steeliest Clint as Ellen, a laconic and fierce woman who rides into Redemption with revenge on her mind. Revenge about what we’re never quite sure ‘til the end, but she’s real nasty to the local kingpin, Herod (Gene Hackman), who’s as ornery as a rattler and has the Leone-like town in his deep pocket.
Evidently, Ellen has planned well because she’s arrived in Redemption just in time to participate in a local festivity, shootout week, we’ll call it. It’s a latter-day competition that has attracted cutthroats and cretins from miles around who have come to duel to the death on the town’s dusty drag.
Less squinty than Clint, our lone gunwoman sits aloof, watching the mayhem and belting back straight booze. To the menfolks’ amusement, she enters the competition, taunting the verminous Herod all the while. Unfortunately, screenwriter Simon Moore’s one-liners are mainly limp spaghetti and Stone is reduced to the plight of dispensing snarly retorts that have all the wallop of a vegetarian pasta. Still, with her stogie, leather pants and calm swagger, all is not lost - there is an abundance of material here that could be recycled as cigar ads.
Narratively, “The Quick” plods along through a perfunctory series of grisly shootouts as a representative wad of bad-toothed oafs drill themselves dead in the town square. Some are slightly memorable, including Herod’s snotty, fast-gun son (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a mysterious Holy Man (Russell Crowe), but there’s little narrative relief from the dry onslaught: No comedy, sex or other fresheners juice this generic parchment. There are some simplistic soap opera-ish flashbacks to Ellen’s childhood and a horrible trauma, but this stuff never reverberates beyond perfunctory psychological fodder.
While heaping it high with Leone-like stuffings (buzzing flies, long-barreled pieces, ominous silences, Morricone-ish sounds), director Raimi has done little to reinvigorate the form. While Raimi and his expert technical team have created a ghoulish dimension visually (torrid skies, gothic interiors, etc.), they’ve not succeeded in bringing the tawdry horrors these visual correlatives represent to the psychological innards of the story - at core, “The Quick and the Dead” is just plain empty, a mere exercise in novelty packaging with Stone as Eastwood. You keep wishing that Mel Brooks would ride into town and save this one.
MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: “The Quick and the Dead” Location: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Cast: Directed by Sam Raimi, starring Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobin Bell, Roberts Blossom, Kevin Conway, Keith David, Lance Henriksen, Pat Hingle, Gary Sinise Running time: 103 minutes Rating: R