Director: Sam Raimi
Writer: Simon Moore
Also starring: Sharon Stone (Ellen), Gene Hackman (Herod), Leonardo DiCaprio (Kid)
Awards: Sam Raimi, nominated for Golden Palm Award, 1995 Cannes Film Festival
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Crowe has described his role in this film as his entrée into US filmmaking. He gives considerable credit to Sharon Stone, who wanted Crowe for the role of Cort, gunslinger turned priest.
I first heard about this film when Stone, star and co-producer of the film, appeared on Dennis Miller's late night talk show. Of course, she didn't call it a Russell Crowe film, she called it a western that was a lot of fun to make. I was impressed, I liked the way she was hamming it up as the movie star, the way she was totally deliberate about it.
I went to see the movie as soon as it came out. I don't read reviews. I don't watch awards presentations anymore. I don't listen to critics. A critic's job is to criticize, not appreciate, else they would be called "aficionados," not critics.

In any case, I did not know the Hollywood scene had labeled this a stinker. They have no taste, never have had. So....
I recognized Crowe, couldn't figure out where from. (I'll stand by my assertion that it must have been  Spotswood, it just could *not* have been Neighbors..) The film sparked for me a maniacal Crowe film hunt through video haunts in Iowa City. Hey, everyone needs something to do in her off time, right?

Years later, every one I call a friend has sat through the film and had my running commentary inflicted upon them (Few had the chance to see it in pristine silence as I did, the only one laughing out loud in the theatre... "The spurs! The jingling spurs! The guns! A giggle death for me, look what they're doing with those GUNS! Of course that "I always wanted to fight you, Cort, ever since the first time I saw you..." so breathlessly delivered. ROTFLMAO!")

The film is perfectly deliberate. Sam Raimi's use of all the clichés, the overblown, and the comic.  You can't ignore the details, they are heavy with insinuation, familiar and not so familiar. I suppose you have to be a fan of the Wild West myth and its glorification in film, but if you are, this film gives you lots to chew on.

Dramatic tension is not lost for the satirical elements. The director's use of light, the half faces, the still moments followed by startling movement, the icon set against the living (cut from the somersaulting pistol to Ellen/Stone flinching). Flawless performances by all engage us in the characters' plights: Ellen with her delicate mission and her shadowy past, Herod clutching at his sinister empire, the Kid's desperate bravado. And last but not least, Cort, struggling with a merciless redemption process. Crowe doesn't seem to be tripped up by his chains. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Pulp Fiction's "gimp" did not use his chains to better advantage.


2crowe.gif (1653 bytes)Thank you, God, for Sharon Stone!!! This film was Russell Crowe's first American-made film, and had it not been for Stone insisting on having Russell in it, we might not know who he is today. So, kudos to Sharon!!

This film is the story of a female gunfighter, whose real name is Ellen (Stone) but is referred to as The Lady. Ellen shows up in the small Western town of Redemption for a shoot-off competition with a chip on her shoulder and revenge on her mind.

We don't learn much about Ellen throughout the movie except that she has a
specific goal to achieve and her motive (sorry, any more would spoil the plot).

Redemption is run by the smarmy Harrod (Gene Hackman), who owns practically everything. The entire town fears and loathes him.

Several characters enter the competition, most voluntarily. One, however, is forced into the fray by Harrod, and he is Cort (Crowe), an ex-gunfighter-turned-preacher.

The first time I saw this movie, I thought it was somewhat over the top (read: ridiculously huge bullet holes in bodies). But I did notice the very cute and sexy preacher-man! I have since read several articles on the movie and have discovered that the movie was meant to be campy. Mission accomplished.

Russell appears with shaggy hair and dirty clothes, but he still manages to steal the scenes he's in. You will agree with me when I say he should have been given more screen time considering that he is the best thing in the movie.

After seeing it for the first time, I always wondered how Cort knew Ellen's name just before the last fight scene, when previously she had only been referred to as The Lady. I have since found out that there was a love scene between Cort and Ellen that was cut from the American version that appears in the European version. Having seen still pictures from the "Bordello" scene, I feel that we Americans got the short end of the stick here.

Russell, even as an unkempt, fully clothed, dirty preacher, delivers a sexy performance that had us ladies sitting up to take notice. This is not one of his best performances, but it is a must- rent for any Russell fan.

Our many thanks and undying gratitude to Sharon Stone, whose foresight and intuition has subsequently provided millions of women with indescribable pleasure. However can we repay her??

Rated: Two Crowes

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