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The Quick and the Dead – Sam Raimi (1995)

A Western classic with a very young Leonardo diCaprio, a pretty young Russel Crowe and a young and sexy Sharon Stone. Her trying to look tough does not work out too well though. Gene Hackman as the bad guy is fun though.

Stone’s character Ellen drives to a remote village where an annual dueling event takes place. The little town is ran by scumbag Herod (Hackman) and every year people can sign up for shooting duels. The winner wins a massive amount of money, but of course, Herod lets nobody win but himself.

Ellen does not just go to that town for the money, but because Herod is responsible for the death of her father, who used to the be sheriff of the town when she was a girl.

So we have a town full of self-confident people who think that they are the best and fastest shooters. The event itself is quite brutal and the end result not a surprise, but “The Quick and the Dead” is an alright watch.

The Harder They Fall – Jeymes Samuel (2021)

  • western

The film begins as a ‘hip’ Western with a flashy opening and contemporary music. Initially it appears to be some sort of ‘black power’ film with black actors in the leading parts. When the film continues, also the bad guys prove to be black, so it is more an almost entirely black cast movie.

In the cliffhanger we see a young boy who watches his family being killed. This boy -of course- is the main character in the film years later. Naturally, he is after the people responsible for his parents’ deaths.

Nat Love (Jonathan Meyers) also became a fairly famous outlaw who made an enemy of an even more famous outlaw Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) who is freed by his gang and out for revenge.

Having a mostly black crew of course already is a statement, there are more such statements in the film. These thematics, but also the approach reminded me of the mini series “Watchmen” a few times. The fiery eyes of Regina King surely added to that.

All in all, “The Harder The Fall” is a nice take on the Western genre with a few uncommon elements, yet fairly traditional to the style.

Paradox – Daryl Hannah (2018)

I do not remember how I found this film on Reddit, but the presence of Neil Young had me intrigued, in spite the 3.9 rating on IMDb. I figured it would perhaps not be for the ‘general audience’.

Well, it is not! “Paradox” starts as a slow, minimalist and somewhat strange film without much of a story. It is more an ‘image-scape’. A group of men are in some remote and rough part of (I think) Southern America. Modern day cowboys, but then looking for treasury. Digging in some hill they find key-boards and mobile phones, I think they are supposed to be from the past.

In this desolate landscape the men have odd conversations. There is a mysterious man with a black hat, played by Neil Young. At some point the men set out on a journey and arrive at a group of tents. There is seems that the men form a band around Neil Young and the film turns into live-performance.

After this, we go back to the minimalist and storyless film which includes a weird scene with a bus of women.

Indeed, not your average film. Much effort has been put into the visuals. There are hour-long shots compressed into seconds, close ups of plants and animals, great shots of nature. The film parts are amusing, the music parts beautiful.

A last surprise: the director is the famous actress Daryl Hannah.

My rating is way higher than on IMDb (or the same, but on a scale of 5 instead of one of 10). I am glad that Netflix also offers more experimental material and not just blockbusters. I hope I will find more such treasures.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Ethan & Joel Coen (2018)

Well well, Netflix has a Coen that I had not yet seen. Actually, this is a Netflix production.

“The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs” is not really a film, there are six short stories told from a book with this name.

The first film is a typical Coen, weird, humorous and violent. Other films are more drama, but always with the Coen black humour, just not always of the screwball type.

“The Ballad…” is not the Coens greatest, but an amusing watch if you want something light.

Godless (series) (2017)

Not entirely what I expected. “Godless” is a Netflix series, or mini series perhaps, as there are only seven episodes. It is ‘but’ a Western.

Basically there are two stories. There is a small town of La Belle which in the 1880’ies USA lost almost all their men in an accident in the local mine.

Then we have a group of lawless men who are looking for one of them who escaped with their money. The escaped man of course ends up in La Belle.

The lawless men are led by Frank Griffin who is magnificently played by Jeff Daniels. In spite of Daniels’ friendly face, he manages to set Griffin as a scary maniac.

The series are slow paced, have some cold humour, romance and tension. Not bad at all, but as I said, it is mostly ‘but’ a Western.

Westworld – Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy (series season 1 2016)

I got these series as birthday present. It was also on my wish list, but not too high. The first season is alright, but as with most series that I see, not good enough to make me want to see season 2 or the announced third series some time soon.

Westworld is a virtual Wild West, an amusement park where people can submerge themselves in adventure. They can even go around killing people and go to the brothel, for most visitors the main attractions. Most people in Westworld are androids, robots that are almost exactly human, called “hosts”. When a host gets shot, it is repaired and sent back to the park to pick up their parts in their “loops” (part of a “narrative”) again. When ‘upstairs’ the hosts are usually clothless, an easy way to incorporate nudity into the series for an unclear reason. A host cannot kill a visitor.

In order to make them more and more human, the creators frequently update the hosts, even giving them some sort of consciousness. Then some seem to start to develop consciousness themselves. This leads to lengthy philosophical monologues about what makes humans human and what makes reality real. Of course it is in the development of an own will of the hosts that the series get their story from.

“Westworld” is an alright series that raises a few interesting questions. The events jump back and forth in time and the story is well-written with subtle references and a few surprises. Anthony Hopkins is great as one of the creators of the park. In the first episodes the score is interesting too, as it is often classical versions of pop songs.

All in all, “Westworld” made a nice watch, but like I said, I not nice enough to put the following seasons high(er) up on my to see list.

Bone Tomahawk – S. Craig Zahler (2015)

  • western

A fairly raw Western in which a group of brutal Indians kidnap people from a small town. A party lead by the sheriff played by Kurt Russell sets out to find the inhabitants.

The largest part of the film is the ride towards the area where the Indians can be found. When the party starts to close in, the Indians (of course) defend their territory.

The film has a good atmosphere and the story unfolds perhaps not surprisingly, but well.

Cowboys & Aliens – Jon Favreau (2011)

Seldom does the title of a film refer so clearly to the genre, or in this case genres. Indeed, this film is a mix between Western and scifi.

There is not too much of a story, but in a Western town with much hostility among its inhabitants, spacecrafts arrive to terrorize the town. A number of townsmen and -women are kidnapped and a party sets out to find them.

A fairly typical Hollywood film unfolds with Daniel Graig and Harrison Ford as stars, the only not-so-Hollywood element is the unlikely mix of genres. This is not presented all that surprisingly though and actually they go together fairly well.

Not a great film, but entertaining.

The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino (2015)

There are quite a few similarities between Tarantino’s last film and his previous one. Both “The Hateful Eight” and “Django Unchained” are about three hours, a reason for me to not put them high on my list and in both cases the story could have been told in a shorter film. Both films are about the origins of American racism. “Django” is about the times of slavery and this time the film plays in a time just after the war between the North (that wanted to get rid off slavery) and the South (that wanted to keep it).

Another similarity is the setting. Both films have limited settings, a plantage in the older film, an inn in the later one. Both films mostly revolve around Tarantino’s highly entertaining and lengthy dialogues, weird humor and of course a bloody shootout at the end.

In “The Hateful Eight” we have two bountyhunters traveling to the same town to collect their bounty. On their way they pick up another person and a snowstorm forces them to take shelter in a remote inn. The friendly folks there prove not to be as friendly as they appear.

Like I said, the film could have been shorter, but “The Hateful Eight” is highly entertaining. Typical for a Tarantino, but I am sure that is the way he intended it.

Slow West * John Maclean (2015)

I read some good things about this film and thought it would be a nice variation on the Western film. Actually it is a fairly straightfoward Western.

The young Scott Jay Cavendish travels accross America to find the woman he loves who left the country with her father. Jay is doing pretty well until he runs into Silas, a crude bounty hunter, or is he not as crude as he seems? The two continue the travel together, meet up with some strange people until they find the house where Rose and her father reside.

Like I said, the film is a fairly straightforward Western. There are some amusing dialogues and Maclean seems to have wanted to put some extra stress on what the American colonisers did with the indigenous people. For the rest there is not much of a story. That is not really needed either. From early on it is clear how things are going to end and yet, the final scene sticks out to the atmoshere of the rest of the film.

“Slow West” is a descent film, but I do not really find it a ‘high flyer’.