Despite an embarrassing theatrical roll-out where it grossed a dismal $2 million off of a $30 million production budget, Walter Hill’s 1995 oater Wild Bill is a damn fine piece of old-school western filmmaking, and while recently revisiting, it’s clear that the creative team on HBO’s Deadwood were paying attention in retrospect, as Hill’s sturdy and masculine work on this film would clearly pave the way for him being recruited to direct the pilot to one of the pay cabler’s greatest dramatic series.
Featuring the perfectly cast Jeff Bridges as the titular hero, there’s a wonderful supporting ensemble including a fiery Ellen Barkin as Calamity Jane (should’ve been Oscar nominated), John Hurt, Diane Lane, Keith Carradine, James Gammon, Bruce Dern, Christina Applegate, James Remar and a sketchy and sweaty David Arquette as the trigger man who turned the legend’s lights off for good.
Lloyd Ahern Jr.’s dusty cinematography captured the essence and lethality of the old west, while Hill’s poetic yet terse screenplay nailed the various, grizzled voices from the ensemble. Both Barry Levinson and Sydney Pollack were attached to direct at various stages in the film’s development, and the film was produced by Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck, and distributed by United Artists. Available on DVD; wish there was a Blu!
Review by Nick Clement