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Jeff Bridges' portrayal of Wild Bill Hickok is simply outstanding. He delivers exactly the right mix of flamboyant swagger, no nonsense toughness, and world weariness to breath life into the legend, and is the primary reason to see this movie. The film's early scenes, where Bridges gets to recreate several pivital episodes of Hickok's legend are superb; had the movie continued in that vein, it would be a classic.
Unfortunately, 'Wild Bill' abandons both the history and legend of James Butler Hickok for the greater part of the movie in favor of its own inovations on the tale that simply fall flat. Most of the story is told in Deadwood, the boom town where Hickok was killed, and it attempts to give explanation and motivation to young Jack McCall's murder of Wild Bill. This is not only unnecessary, as the tale already had a fitting ending (an unbalanced young coward murders a legend hoping to make a name), but destoys the credibility of the film, by adding silly scenes such as McCall and a gang of hired toughs holding Bill and friends hostage in a bar previous to the murder.
The impressive cast, like the movie itself, delivers unevenly. David Arquette does a fair job as the twitchy Jack McCall. Ellen Barkin fails as Calamity Jane - her attempt at acting both rowdy tough and sweetly sexy is about as successful as mixing oil and water.Read more ›
I just found it great fun, an entertaining film that's always a kick to view, and what more you can ask? Being someone who is very much into visuals, great cinematography and unique approaches to camera-work, this film provided all of that and more, such as an interesting story with whacked-out characters.
I love narration and John Hurt's description of the goings-on here was just great to hear. He played "Charlie," an Englishman with a gentleman's vocabulary that was in stark contrast to the hardened outlaws, led by 'Wild Bill' Hickok himself, played by Jeff Bridges. Ellen Barkin plays "Calamity Jane," and few women of the 1980s and '90s played foul-mouthed, hard-but-sexy women as convincingly as Barkin.
In addition to Hurt, Bridges and Barkin, other fun characters included "California Joe," Hickok's gravel-voiced friend who doesn't say much but when he does, you hear some some of the longest sentences ever uttered. Daid Arquette plays a very strange villain, the man who became famous for shooting Wild Bill. He acts strange and talks as if he has a mouthful of marbles. James Remar, another mean-looking tough guy, is a hired killer. Christina Applegate, Bruce Dern, Margoe Gortner, Keith Carradine and assorted other characters all add to this strange tale, strange in its telling and even stranger in its visual style.
Some of the film is in flashback, which is seen in startling black-and-white and mainly features Diane Lane, who is flat-out gorgeous and maybe the most intriguing person in the film. One of the flashbacks has the film deliberately overexposed with wild dream-like images.
No western "purist" admits to liking this but I love the genre and I put this near the top of my list of favorite westerns. So, sue me!
This film follows what seems to be a fairly typical pattern of telling considerable factual material, and then "completing" the story with invention. That is not my preference, because as mentioned above, the truth is more than enough. However, I'm glad just to have these movies made, and the Westerns of recent years are vastly superior to the "Classics" when it comes to authenticity.
Getting some feel for the real Hickok, and then seeing Jeff Bridges in the role with the artistry of modern Hollywood to create the character, left me agape. Surely, this is Hickok come to life! The people creating the time-piece sets and historic characters of these recent movies are good! Do yourself a favor and don't take this artistry for granted.
There is one scene in this movie I would like to single out for its exceptional artistry. That is the dream-like reminiscence of Hickok, along with California Joe, meeting a party of "Dog Soldiers," i.e. Cheyenne warriors. (The word Cheyenne comes from the French chien, meaning dog). The way in which these warriors and this meeting are portrayed creates a scene of haunting, mystical power.
The tales of the American frontier are stuff of great fascination. So much so that it was realized even back then, in "real" time. It is so wonderful to see these stories told with considerable authenticity that I can't begrudge the makers a bit of license with some facts, even though it just isn't necessary.
Just keep making these films. I'm far from tired of them.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have read a lot about J. B. Hickok and even though much of this is taken from historical facts, I don't believe that he had the type of personality portrayed here. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ray
Jeff Bridges turns in one of his greatest performances as Wild Bill, the famous lawman and frontiersman of the old west. Read morePublished 2 months ago by magellan
Fast service however, movie had three areas on disc where movie frozePublished 12 months ago by Brent Horner
Great movie. It needs to be on amazon instant video.Published 13 months ago by Neal Curtis Hamilton
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