Old Rush

The last act of the picture is a clumsy, conflicted evolution of the plot against Bill by McCall (well-played by David Arquette). He and his hired guns interrupt Bill at an especially inopportune moment and take him prisoner, but then McCall is paralyzed at the prospect of actually shooting somebody. Bill just sits there, playing cards--he doesn't much seem to care how it all turns out.

Neither did I, really, and yet I enjoyed Wild Bill. It isn't in the same class as The Long Riders, Hill's 1980 film about the James Gang and the last Western movie with any remote claim to greatness (Unforgiven notwithstanding). But Bridges, his co-stars, and Hill's lovely imagery and whirling sense of montage held me quite spellbound, even though I had no earthly reason to care what happened to this disreputable lot.

There's nothing new in the idea of using a legendary Western figure to debunk his own legend. Indeed, as played (wonderfully) by Jeff Corey, a world-weary Wild Bill was used for this purpose in Arthur Penn's Little Big Man.

From the mid-Sixties on, the deconstruction of the myth of the gallant Old West has been the principal business of the Western genre, such as it is. But this has usually taken the form of wistful, nostalgic elegy. In Wild Bill, it's a bad trip, shot through with puzzlement and a hint of rage.

Wild Bill:
Directed by
Walter Hill; withJeff Bridges, EllenBarkin, JohnHurt, DianeLane, DavidArquette, Christina Applegate, BruceDern, James Gammon, Marjoe Gortner, James Remar, Steve Reevis, Peter Jason and Keith Carradine.


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