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Quick and the Dead, The (1995) Print E-mail
Friday, 11 September 2009
ImageSam Raimi is one the best directors in the industry.  His "Army of Darkness" has a cult following.  Then there is, of course the Spider-man films.  Raimi is a versatile director as evident by his work on "The Quick and the Dead," a rather good western film.  Westerns can be divided between those that are gritty and dramatic and those that use humor.  "The Quick and the Dead" is the latter.

The film is based on revenge.  Lady (Sharon Stone) is out to get revenge on Herod (Gene Hackman) for something that we are quite sure about at the beginning but do not get the full answer until the end of the film.  Lady rides into town to enter a dueling contest that will allow her to take on Herod.  However, Lady is not as confident and tough as she appears.  She is scared just like the rest of the town.

Herod is the tyrant of the western town, taking 50 cents of every dollar made in the town.  He lives in the nicest place in the town and is always surrounded by bodyguards.  Herod was an outlaw in his youth, now having settled in this town.  His current project is to get Cort (Russell Crowe) to join the contest.  Cort is a preacher, but used to ride with Herod's gang.  Kidnapped, Cort has no choice but to be in the contest.  While he doesn't plan on drawing his weapon his natural instincts begin to return to him.

The rules of the contest are simple.  Anyone can challenge anyone.  No challenge can be turned down.  While Lady is trying to kill Herod, Herod has a son in the contest, Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio).  Kid is trying to win Herod's respect.  Apparently he thinks that dueling Herod is the way to do it.  Unfortunately for him, Herod changes the rules and it is now shoot to kill and not the shooter left standing.

The town is desperate to get rid of Herod and hires a professional to take him out.  However, Herod is not dumb and knows what is going on.  The finale of the film is quite pleasing.  All loose ends have been tied and it is not complex.  "The Quick and the Dead" is good western fun.  Raimi's sense of comedy is not lost on the viewer.  The witty banter that is exchanged between DiCaptio and Stone and Stone and Crowe is great.

The visual style is akin to typical western styles.  Dollies and zooming is frequently used and the image is given a warm look.  Cinematography is pleasant.  However, the close-ups become claustrophobic after some time.  More establishing shots would have been welcome.
The film comes to Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encode.  The film is framed in its 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Despite some of the previous ranting, the film has quite a good video transfer.  Let's get the obvious out of the way.  Is there a lot of film grain?  Absolutely.  Is it easily overlooked? Yes.  Film grain adds a wonderful feel to the viewing experience of this film.  As a 1995 film it is expected that there is going to be film grain.  Adding that this is a western, the film grain is completely expected.  That aside, the film transfer is rather nice.  The black levels are rich, however, they could be deeper.  The colors are extremely warm, replicating the desert sun.  Everything is consistently red and orange.  The saturation is high, as intended by the filmmakers.  Fleshtones are accurate for the type of film.  Contrast is rarely overblown.  The rest of the video transfer is hit or miss.  The details can be outstanding, especially in the close ups of the actors.  Likewise, textures can be excellent.  However, those same close ups can also appear soft.  The film grain swallows textures.  Shadow delineation is also hit or miss.  Could the video transfer have been better?  Sure.  But overall, this was a pleasing viewing experience that reveals details not present on the standard DVD.

Like the last part of the video quality, the audio quality is hit or miss.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track reveals the original issues with the audio.  With a little post work these issues could have been remedied.  Dialogue is a bit flat and weak.  The sound effects are cheesy and very thin.  The brightness of the sound effects is quite disturbing.  When the town begins to explode at the end of the film the TNT explosions sound like catalog sound effects.  The LFE channel was seemingly absent from that section.  That being said, the LFE channel is quite prevalent during rather simple sequences.  When the actors' boots and spikes hit the wooden planks, the bass is resounding.  Likewise, reverberation is also good.  It spreads nicely through the rear channels.  However, there are other occasions in which the room ambience and reverberation does not spread to the rears.  Rear channels are rather empty.  However, when the surrounds are filled the immersion is fairly convincing.  The music score by Alan Silvestri is very front heavy.  A more full-bodied EQ to the music would have helped bring more strength to the audio track.  Overall this is a good track, but is hindered by its inconsistencies.

The Blu-ray contains only one special feature.  Exclusive to the Blu-ray is the movieIQ function.  This is a function that seems interesting at the start, but the actually functionality of the feature is less than wonderful.  The track occupies about one third of the screen.  Select tabs allow you to choose what topics you want to learn more about during the playback of the movie.  There is cast and crew information and update to date scene information.  Refreshing of the information is a bit weak.  Personally I would have preferred these to be separate bonus materials, mini featurettes.  There are several sequences that were shot for this film and never released as deleted scenes.  I would have liked to have seen the deleted footage show up on the Blu-ray release.  Even the theatrical trailer is not included on this Blu-ray.

"The Wuick and the Dead" is one of my favorite Raimi films.  This western is humorous and entertaining.  The video and audio are pleasing but lack coherency.  I recommend this Blu-ray disc.

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