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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Oct 16, 2022



AS A DIRECTOR, Walter Hill is best known for westerns like “The Long Riders” and “Southern Comfort” and the action comedy “48 Hours”. 

His last film was “The Assignment” with Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez. 

Now 80 years old, his new film is another western “Dead for a Dollar”, a title used before in a spaghetti western.

He has a good ensemble cast, lead by two time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as a bounty hunter in 1897 in New Mexico, Max Borlund.

A businessman, Martin Kidd (Hamish Linklater), hires him to get back his wife, Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan, who won the Emmy twice for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”).

His wife was kidnapped by a black man who’s an army deserter, Elijah Jones (Brandon Scott), and taken to Mexico. 

Max is given another black soldier, Alonzo Poe (Warren Burke), to help him in his mission. 

But when he finds Rachel, it turns out that she was not really abducted but is just running away from her husband who is such an abusive man.

Then it also turns out many other baddies are after Max. 

First is Willem Dafoe as Joe Cribbens, a professional gambler and horse thief he sent to prison five years ago and who has now regained his freedom and wants revenge. 

Then there’s the mean Mexican bad guy, Tiberio (Benjamin Bratt), with his oily lackey (Luis Chavez) with a shakey alliance that shifts so quickly.  

All the familiar western tropes are present here: the poker games in the saloon, panoramic shots of wide desert plains, riders in the dust, Mexican bandits out for mischief and the final showdown between the hero and all his nasty adversaries. 

The film may be rooted in classic western premises but its mediocrity makes it so lacking in entertainment value. 

Badly scripted and tediously paced, we cannot believe this is directed by Hill who has also made some exciting action flicks like “Extreme Prejudice”, “Red Heat” and “Wild Bill”.  

The climactic shootout aims to be a clone of the classic “High Noon”, but the blocking is done so poorly, with Max standing in the open but never getting hit by a bullet. 

And honestly, we don’t truly care much what happens to anyone, so it’s really quite disappointing. 

Hill’s work here is just not up to the standards set by his past movies.

Waltz has played the same kind of role before in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”, but there he’s allowed to do his trademark scene-stealing flamboyance and it works. 

Here, Hill obviously told him to control himself and play it straight as the ice-blooded gunslinger and the result is quite lackluster. 

Dafoe also fails to impress as one of the villains and his most challenging scene shows him talking to a cockroach. 

Rachel Brosnahan fares better as a feisty woman who wants to carve her own destiny in a violent world dominated by men. 

That scene where she aims her small gun to a man who challenges her “you cannot shoot me” and she fires it, shocking him, really calls for applause.