Hill's remake of Kurosawa's samurai classic Yojimbo places the story in the Prohibition era, with Italian and Irish bootleggers clashing over Mexican liquor supplies in Jericho, Texas. 'John Smith' (Willis) takes one look at the dead horse in the middle of Main Street and gets the full measure of this godforsaken ghost town. Before long both factions are vying for his services as hired gun, and Smith cynically plays one off against the other until, steeped in blood and sickened by what he's seen, he sets about wiping out every last man. The plot will be familiar not only from Yojimbo but from Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. Hill's Tex-Mex version suggests he hasn't got the Western out of his system yet, and this highly stylised film looks like an uncomfortable exercise in cross-breeding, as if a handful of mobsters had wandered on to the wrong studio backlot. Hill goes all out for spiritual fable, with Smith bringing down the walls of Jericho, shooting for his own bloody Calvary. The conceit might have played better in a Western. As a thriller, the film tries to camouflage its lack of suspense with profligate and repetitive gunplay and a deafening barrage of noise (Ry Cooder's score is a plus, however). There's too much voice-over, and not enough for arch-nemesis Walken to do. but at least Willis has the hard-boiled hero down. An honourable failure.
Cast and crew
David Patrick Kelly