×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wild Bill

Wild Bill is an art Western that manages to shoot itself in both feet. Walter Hill's third oater represents a case of diminishing returns in the genre for the director, after skillfully taking on several famous outlaw clans in The Long Riders and rather too reverentially approaching the legend of Geronimo years ago.

With:
Jeff Bridges Ellen Barkin John Hurt Diane Lane David Arquette Christina Applegate

Wild Bill is an art Western that manages to shoot itself in both feet. Walter Hill’s third oater represents a case of diminishing returns in the genre for the director, after skillfully taking on several famous outlaw clans in The Long Riders and rather too reverentially approaching the legend of Geronimo years ago.

Although less flamboyant and showbizzy, this awkwardly structured look at one of the West’s most famous gunmen stands as an artistic companion piece to Robert Altman’s dud Buffalo Bill and the Indians in its preoccupation with myth and legend and its at least partial basis in a play [Thomas Babe’s 1978 Fathers and Sons, plus Pete Dexter’s novel Deadwood].

As impersonated with great physical conviction by Jeff Bridges, this Wild Bill is one ornery, sore-headed s.o.b. In the film’s weird initial 20 minutes, this rattlesnake cuts down a succession of men in an elongated montage that spans nine years up to 1876 and locations from Abilene to Cheyenne to New York City.

In Deadwood Gulch in the Dakota Territory, Bill resumes his old quasi-romance with Calamity Jane (Ellen Barkin), suffers an opium-induced crisis of conscience and faces a recurring challenge from green would-be assassin Jack McCall (David Arquette), who, it appears, may be Wild Bill’s son.

The druggy dreams and romantic pangs prompt a series of flashbacks done in parched, high-contrast black-and-white that further reveal Bill’s murderousness as well as his lost love for Jack’s mother, Susannah (Diane Lane). The problem is that these regrets have no seeming effect on the dubious hero’s character. Pic comes to a near dead-stop, in the final stretch, as Wild Bill, Calamity Jane and Jack’s band of killers sit around all night in a saloon while Jack decides whether or not to kill his nemesis.

Bridges acquits himself honorably, snarling meanly and attempting to search a soul that is void. Barkin is game but doesn’t really ring true as Calamity Jane, while Lane is one of the dreamiest visions to hit the territories since Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Wild Bill

Production: Zanuck/United Artists. Director Walter Hill; Producer Richard D. Zanuck, Lili Fini Zanuck; Screenplay Walter Hill; Camera Lloyd Ahern; Editor Freeman Davies; Art Director Joseph Nemec III

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1995. Running time: 97 MIN.

With: Jeff Bridges Ellen Barkin John Hurt Diane Lane David Arquette Christina Applegate

More Film

  • RUDOLF NUREYEV 1961

    Film Review: 'Nureyev'

    It would be absurd to say that Rudolf Nureyev lived, or danced, in anyone’s shadow. He was a man who leapt and twirled and flew onstage, all muscle but light as a feather, with a freedom and force that reconfigured the human spirit. There’s no denying, though, that over the last few decades, and especially [...]

  • Die Kinder Der Toten review

    Film Review: 'Die Kinder Der Toten'

    The hills are alive (or rather, undead), with the sound of music (also mastication and the moaning of zombies) in Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska’s experimental, dialogue-free, home-movie-style riff on Elfriede Jelinek’s “Die Kinder Der Toten” (The Children of the Dead). A seminal text in Jelinek’s native Austria, the 1995 book has never been translated [...]

  • Idol review

    Film Review: 'Idol'

    How many twists can a plot undergo before it snaps? This, more than any of the many political, moral and personal conundrums that snake through “Idol,” seems to be the question writer-director Lee Su-jin is most interested in posing with his extravagantly incomprehensible sophomore feature. A seedy political thriller by way of grisly revenge movie [...]

  • The Last to See Them review

    Film Review: 'The Last to See Them'

    Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood” stretches long as a late-evening shadow over Italian director Sara Summa’s feature debut “The Last to See Them.” The Italian title, “Gli Ultimi Viderli Vivere” which translates literally to “The Last to See Them Alive,” is also the heading of the opening chapter of Capote’s book. The setting is, similarly, [...]

  • Kalank

    Film Review: ‘Kalank’

    Events leading to the 1947 Partition of India serve as the forebodingly serious backdrop for the exhaustingly overextended razzmatazz of “Kalank,” writer-director Abhishek Varman’s lavish but ponderous Bollywood extravaganza, which opened in the U.S. on more than 300 screens the same day as its Indian release. Despite the preponderance of sets and costumes spectacular enough [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA: 92 Percent of Writers Who Signed Statement of Support Have Fired Agents

    The Writers Guild of America estimated that over 92 percent of their members who support a new code of conduct for talent agencies have fired those representatives. Letters announcing formal termination will be delivered on Monday, the guild said in a late-hitting memo on Thursday, as most agencies will be closed tomorrow in observance of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content