Wild Bill Reviews
The movie has it's moments, but mostly due to the fine performances. In the beginning the movie just jumps back and forth from one moment of Bill's life to the next. The film just has supporting characters talking about Bill through most the movie, basically saying;"I remember when Bill did this, I remember when Bill did that". The movie just could have been better considering the fact that it has Jeff Bridges in it. I also have seen much better westerns.
Obviously Wild Bill is a great title as it portrays James Bill Hickock as some sort of wild animal, getting in more fights per minute of film than most Westerns. He is losing his sight too as he drinks, gambles and shoots a man (Bruce Dern) in his wheelchair. The legend of Hickock however has seldom been explored in any real depth for us, so we are asked in this to believe he was a longhair, mangy, crude and as some sort of vicious, killer tough guy.
Jeff Bridges hasn't much of a script. He shoots, blasts, kicks and punches his way through much of the film. Eventually the film settles down when he reaches the town of Deadwood, a lawless, chaotic boomtown where he is nominated sherrif. He meets Calamity Jane, a similarly wild woman herself. He experiments with Chinese opium and has dreams shown in black and white.
I am going to pronounce this mid-nineties film as a fast paced, well directed and filmed movie. However, it relies on a lot of killing and desperate characters almost every scene. A youngster keeps annoying and threatening him for some bad treatment of his mother.
Essentially, the film is a flashback until Hickock arrives in Deadwood, some sort of hell on earth boom town with mud and rain. We know we are watching something pretty good here, but the emphasis is on non-stop violence for its action.
As a matter of fact, this one is virtually all action in the form of shoot outs and a very grumpy, mean Wild Bill. The legend of Wild Bill Hickock is in no danger of being debunked by this film. He is made to appear as some sort of RoboCop.
Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill Hickcock
Bruce Dern (killed early in a shootout with Wild Bill)
John Hurt (of Elephant Man fame)
Cinematographer: Lloyd Ahern
Co-Producer : Gary Daigler
Editor: Freeman Davies
Composer: Van Dyke Parks
Director: Walter Hill
Screenplay: Walter Hill
Costume Designer: Dan Moore
Production Designer: Joseph Nemac III
Producer: Lili Fini Zanuck
Producer: Richard D. Zanuck
Wild Bill has problems with gambling, money, women, keeping friends, and his eyes. Bill drifts through life doing what makes him feel good and being told how great he is. One of his former pleasures has a son that does not believe in the way Bill lives his life and may strike revenge for some former misdeeds.
"He said you were a horse molester."
"Did he say what horse?"
Walter Hill, director of Last Man Standing, Trespass, Supernova, 48 hrs, Another 48 hrs, Red Heat, Brewster's Millions, Johnny Handsome, and Streets of Fire, delivers Wild Bill. The storyline for this movie is interesting and well delivered. The primary character's unruly manner was well portrayed and presented and this is an interesting modern western. The acting is solid and the cast includes Jeff Bridges, Ellen Barkin, Christina Applegate, David Arquette, Diane Lane, Keith Carradine, James Remar, and John Hurt.
"It is bad luck to kill an Indian in a religious state of mind."
Wild Bill was a film I remembered seeing when it was first rleased and hoped it would be similar to Tombstone; while it is not as good as Tombstone, it is an interesting presentation of Wild Bill. Bridges delivers a solid performance but the end is a little melodramatic. I do recommend seeing this picture.
"I don't apologize."
Director Walter Hill, without apology, rips off the opium-den flashback motif from Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America" to spin off Wild Bill Hickock's memories of his past, just as he's stepping up to the fateful day he's dealt his Aces & Eights.
Hill crams all the shoot-em-ups into a 30-minute Act 1, setting the hook deep in the viewer's lip. And with very good reason since, after that point, there's little more than scene after scene where cowfolk point a lot of shaky gun barrels at each other (but never pull any triggers) while they carry on with tons of endless uninteresting and supposedly threatening dialogue, that mostly delivered in overly-hammy nearly unintelligible cornpone accents.
Then Bill gets shot, a woman screams, go to black, run end credits over a burial scene. Fin.
Hill's post-production resuscitation attempt was to apply bleached-stock, sepia-toning and angled-camera treatments to the flashback scenes. I guess they still teach that in film school.
Ellen Barkin's eternally hot, but she's still not anywhere near enough pony to pull this wagon. The best delivery here is actually John Hurt, since his stature as an formally trained actor scored him a pass on the country-bumpkin talk imposed on everyone else, and so he gets to go with his usual formal British treatment.
RECOMMENDATION: Unless you crave seeing Jeff Bridges in a really long, greasy, stringy wig, take a pass.
Based on both the Deadwood novel by Pete Dexter and the Thomas Babe play Fathers And Sons, the Walter Hill-directed Wild Bill features good acting performances from the following cast:
1.) Jeff Bridges (Wild Bill Hickok)
2.) Ellen Barkin (Calamity Jane)
3.) John Hurt (Charley Prince)
4.) Diane Lane (Susannah Moore)
5.) David Arquette (Jack McCall)
6.) Christina Applegate (Lurlene)
7.) Keith Carradine (Buffalo Bill)
Although it was one of the better westerns ever to be released in the 1990s, audiences had overlooked this film. I, too, myself also overlooked it sometimes: Having seen Wild Bill twice I felt that the story here was too slow - at least until the ending scenes - and wished for better action, but I think it was done that way as to be faithful to the original tall tale and live up to the Wild West look to the big screen. If a series of black-and-white flashbacks seen by Wild Bill's point of view couldn't stop me from ever returning to where the real action is, I must say I do like this movie due to my search for good gunfights in town and a fine performance from the award-winning Jeff Bridges, whose facial appearance matched those of Hickok (and I mean Hickok as in the cowboy Wild Bill, not Hitchcock as in the movie director Alfred). It is a rather sad story, too, for both the sad beginnings and endings of it. The wild side is taken for a good movie about a Wild West legend, which is definitely worth a watch.