Wild Bill -1995-

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Directed by Walter Hill. 98 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on DVD)

 After stumbling with Geronimo, the Hillmography stabilizes itself with a story of the original “loose-cannon cop.” Hill sets Wild Bill apart from his other Westerns (and most of the genre as a whole) by presenting a portrait of a man painted with dreams, anecdotes, and memories. This method of storytelling has a high risk potential since it omits a spinal narrative arc on which to hinge its scenes. And while The film doesn’t reach the heights of Schrader’s ephemeral Mishima, it avoids the meandering pitfalls of W. or, heaven forbid, The Iron Lady. Solid piece o’ work overall.

 The ace up Wild Bill’s sleeve (playing card reference huzzah!) is its stellar cast. Jeff Bridges is great in the lead, and actors from throughout the Hillmography – Bruce Dern, Diane Lane, James Remar, and Ellen Barkin, just to name a few – are on glorious display. Even Keith Carradine shows up, albeit for a single scene, but he steals the show as outlaw-showman Buffalo Bill. David Arquette turns in a surprisingly good performance as Jack McCall, delivering a dramatic presence for which a million Scream sequels and 1-800-CALL-ATT commercials could not prepare me.

 – Young David Arquette bears an uncanny resemblance to Ryan Gosling.

– If anybody understands that the Old West was filthy as Hell, it’s Walter Hil. Deadwood creator David Milch should write him a thank-you note.

Next up in the Hillmography: Last Man Standing.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-02-17)

Southern Comfort -1981-

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Directed by Walter Hill. 105 mins.

 Worth my time? No. (Watched on DVD)

 Walter Hill’s second collaboration with Keith Carradine is a little bit of Fear and Desire (Kubrick’s seldom-seen debut) and a whole lotta Deliverance. Sadly, it features neither the low-budget charm of the former nor the suspenseful genius of the latter. At five films deep into the Hillmography, Southern Comfort is definitely my least favorite of the bunch.

 The great roster of character actors that accompanies Carradine on this National Guard training exercise from Hell are largely put to waste. I was excited to see that the film starred veterans such Peter Coyote, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, And T.K. Carter, but none of their characters are likeable or even marginally interesting. There are no believable humans onscreen, just numbskulls making stupid decisions (like, slasher film “Don’t-go-into-the-unlit-basement” stupid) and trying to out-badass one another with smack talk. As far as I can tell, Hill and his co-writers made the script by filling out a book of Military Mad Libs.

 Most of the film is a long slog through a swamp, literally and figuratively. This is an ugly movie – lots of greys upon greys and indistinguishable locations. Maybe this is an accurate depiction of the Louisiana bayou, but come on, Walter. You aren’t exactly a naturalistic filmmaker – liven this shit up, for Pete’s sake.

 The film does pick up with a tense sequence in the final act, partly because the action leaves the swamps and partly because most of the really annoying characters have died. Additionally, Ry Cooder returns with a score just as good as in The Long Riders. However, neither of these highlights are adequate rewards for sloshing through all this mediocrity.

 Next up in the Hillmography: 48 Hrs.

 

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-01- 27)

The Long Riders -1980-

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Directed by Walter Hill. 100 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes. (Watched on DVD)

 Also known as The Assassination of James Keach by the Coward Nicholas Guest. Walter Hill’s first Western isn’t a game-changer (The legend of Jesse James has been retold countless times prior and since), but the film sets itself apart by giving more screen time to the outlaws’ personal and family lives. Think The Wild Bunch meets Heat.

 After getting off to a slow start, the movies inner Hill kicks in with plenty of squibs and slow motion. Interestingly, the movie balances out its stylized violence with a more realistic portrayal of its aftermath. Most of the characters who are shot are later shown in the hospital, and those who die are shown in the morgue or funeral home, usually surrounded by grieving friends and family.

 The Long Riders is for genre fans (or Carradine/Keach/Quaid/Guest fans) only, but it’s a solid film. There’s really not much more to write on the matter. Next up in the Hillmography: Southern Comfort.

 – Shout-out to Ry Cooder for providing the score.

– I had no idea that Stacy Keach had a brother until I saw The Long Riders.

– Keith Carradine looks a lot like a young Klause Kinski in this movie.

– The David Carradine knife-fight was particularly epic.

– Four films into the Hillmography, and I have yet to encounter one positive, fleshed out woman. It’s enough to make Aaron Sorkin look like a feminist.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-01- 26)