OSince I was at a party and everyone was talking about the fads we went through in school. “Do you remember Tamagotchi?” someone said. Everyone started making suggestions, the conversation becoming quicker and more enthusiastic. Draw the “Cool S”. The Spice Girls. Use yes/no erasers to answer the questions. “Oh, and what about when everyone really got into collecting centipedes!” The conversation broke off as everyone looked at me. It turns out that this experience was not universal.
I get a similar reaction whenever I mention The Quick and the Dead, a 1995 film directed by Sam Raimi. I watched it as a kid and thought everyone else did too. But every time I’ve spoken about it over the years, I’m usually greeted with a blank stare.
I’m not sure why The Quick and the Dead flew so under the radar – it had a strong cast, a strong premise, and it’s great fun to watch. Sometimes a movie comes at just the wrong time – like The Shawshank Redemption, swept under the table by Forrest Gump; or the horror-comedy Jennifer’s Body, vastly underrated until years after its release.
The Quick and the Dead stars Sharon Stone as the Lady, a woman who arrives in an outlaw town in the late 1800s to enter a gunslinging contest. Despite what she says, she’s not in it for the prize money – the Lady has unfinished business, the nature of which is slowly revealed over the course of the film. The plot centers around the series of duels that make up the contest and the shooters that enter: a sinister outlaw who rules the town (Gene Hackman), a preacher who refuses to shoot (Russell Crowe), and a kid arrogant neighborhood guy who’s just trying to prove himself to his dad (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The Quick and the Dead is not a traditional western, nor a satire; if anything, it’s a bit campy and schlocky, with the slightest hint of a superhero movie in there. (Raimi went on to direct the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films and Marvel’s latest film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.)
I have fond memories of this film, so at first I was hesitant to watch it again, in case it held up badly. With one or two exceptions, it’s still just as good. If anything, it’s a little more fun now in hindsight. The Crowes and DiCaprios you see on screen have yet to hit the mark at this point. Stone’s performance is also a very specific type of pleasure, the no-frills Lady who suffers no fools and refuses to smile. (A 2013 listing described Stone as “sexually inert,” which is a ridiculous criticism to level at an actor playing a cold woman). Stone played a pivotal role in the film off-screen: as co-producer, she reportedly insisted that Raimi direct, and held firm when the studio wouldn’t hire DiCaprio, even offering to pay the young man’s salary. 21 years old. out of his own pocket.
The Quick and the Dead is one of those movies that deserved to be bigger than it was – but it’s never too late for something to become a classic.