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On AMC This Week: Stone, Crowe, Hackman and DiCaprio in The Quick and The Dead

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The Quick and the Dead, which will be showing on AMC this Friday evening and again throughout the month of November, has been described as a “post-modern western,” but don’t worry: In this case, what that means is that it’s fun.

It’s certainly top-heavy with talent. The cast includes Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe in his first American film, and Leonardo DiCaprio in his first film after his star-making performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Also on board are Gary Sinise, Lance Henriksen and western legend Woody Strode, to whom the film is dedicated. And the director is Sam Raimi (Spider-Man), bringing the same combination of genre parody and homage that marked his three Evil Dead films.

Doing a respectable Clint Eastwood impression, Stone is a Woman with No Name who rides into the lawless town of Redemption to take part in a quick-draw competition sponsored by Herod (Hackman), a nasty rich guy who just wants to see other people sink into evil. The assembled contestants are sort of a sagebrush version of Wrestlemania. (My favorite is the ex-con who keeps track of each new kill by putting a notch in his own arm.) To no one’s surprise, Stone turns out to have a long-standing grudge against Hackman, the full nature of which isn’t revealed until the final scene. I can offer Simon Moore’s script the highest praise I know, which is to say that at almost no point did I know pretty much what was going to happen next: perhaps the elements of parody are entirely in Raimi’s direction, but once the story gets going he plays it surprisingly straight (though with plenty of lively action and a tasteful dollop of special effects).

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