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Wild Bill

Hill's portrait of Wild Bill Hickok - trapper, gambler, sometime marshal, showman and drifter - is a touch disappointing. It's not the lead performance that's at fault: Bridges is as natural and easy as ever and gives Hickok a complexity and depth barely hinted at by Hill's script which, despite switching deftly between time frames, never really gets beyond the conceit that the legendary hard-livin' shootist cherished surprisingly tender, opium-induced memories of an old flame. In other words, we're more or less in Judge Roy Bean territory, with echoes of Leone, Ford and others thrown in for good measure. As various glory hunters turn up in 1870s Deadrock hoping to dispatch the West's fastest draw, and while Hickok himself loses his sight, his desire for Calamity Jane (Barkin) and, perhaps, his lust for life, Hill and cameraman Lloyd Ahern litter the plot proper with attractively bleached b/w flashbacks to 'explain' his reputation and state of mind. The uneven tone shifts between mythic elegy, heroic action and broad, ironic comedy, while the narrative's rapid pace reduces certain characters to mere cameos and, worse, undermines the film's aspirations to epic drama. Both as a modern Western and as a Hill movie, this is efficient but middling - which still, finally, means that it's worth catching.

Release details

Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Walter Hill
Screenwriter: Walter Hill
Cast: Jeff Bridges
James Remar
David Arquette
Ellen Barkin
John Hurt
Keith Carradine
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