Venice Review: Walter Hill’s Western ‘Dead for a Dollar’

Venice Review: Walter Hill’s Western ‘Dead for a Dollar’

For many years now Venice has been a respected platform for those big-name directors of the ’70s and early ’80s who are happy to get back in the fray long after those sexy studio budgets have dried up: Brian De Palma, William Friedkin, Paul Verhoeven and John Carpenter’s grandfather and – to a lesser extent – George Romero. a home here for their belated love projects. Walter Hill, now 80, joins their ranks with an improbably queer youth opera, and while the limits of both writing and filming a modern-day Western (concessions have to be made to modern sensibilities have to be made, digital cinematography somehow just doesn’t. We don’t cut it) with the theme), yet it’s kind of wickedly fun and full of violent surprises.

Hill dedicates his film to Bud Boetticher, which is a shame because he’s already given critics permission not to think more seriously about a film that’s actually more of a spaghetti western in style, themes, and music (Xander Rodzinski’s score is impressive, even if it never finds the style Morricone who appears to be looking for him). Because of Boetticher’s reference, many have stuck with her heroic persona as a stand-in for favorite Randolph Scott, but there’s also plenty of scheming Eli Wallach in the form of Max Borlund, the meticulous European bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz.

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Borlund has been hired by a businessman named Cade to bring back his wife Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan) who has apparently been kidnapped by renegade Buffalo Army soldier Elijah Jones (Brandon Scott) for a serious ransom. To track down the missing pair, Borlund, the Black Knights Sergeant Poe (Warren Burke), is assigned, but their mission is disrupted, first by the arrival of vicious crime boss Tiberio Varga (Benjamin Bratt) and then by the return of an old enemy from Borlund’s past: Joe Cribbens (Willem Dafoe), a cunning bank robber. And a card shark helped keep him at bay for five years. How these stories come together is fun and fresh in the way the original batch of spaghetti westerns were, playing humor lost from the John Ford years and enjoying frontier spirit chaos rather than eulogizing a lawman who wants to shut everything down.

In that regard, Waltz is a great choice for Borlund – always thinking, always recalibrating, never stressing – allowing chaos to swirl around him like the opening scenes of a 1970 movie. Matalo! Playing yin over his yang, directing more than a hint of the type of rebel he’s playing Big GundownThomas Milian, Dafoe are equally good, and the opening curtain-raising scene makes it clear that whatever happens along the way, it’s clear these two are destined for confrontation.

Any Western before 1971 hired hand He traditionally had a problem with female characters, and Dead for a dollar She tries valiantly to defy those stereotypes – feisty Rachel is a tough-headed woman who turns out to hate what she’s turned into, Kid’s increasingly obnoxious and duplicitous “Zina wife”. Where American Westerns tended to focus on the antagonistic relationship between pioneers and Native American communities, Hill takes the charm of the spaghetti western to Mexico, creating an indelible character of Luis Chavez as Esteban, the cultured but amoral Tiberian medium. Poe and Jones are also given strong backstories and agency, and what may at first seem like a soft racing pedal gives Hill license to pull the rug out from under us when the bullets start to fly. So much so, that it really does seem like we might end up in Sergio Corbucci’s no-holds-barred fatalism The great silence.

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Alas, the incongruous glow of digital and lackluster use of sepia throughout tends to dull the excitement, creating a distracting clash between the film’s over-the-top modernity and nostalgia. Yet it still reveals an expert’s eye on film history and reminds us of the West’s power for political commentary, something Italians recognized long before Sam Peckinpah-Corbucci’s. Django precedes wild bouquet by three years. Perhaps this is the reason more than anything else Dead for a dollar He was invited here.

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