Combustible Celluloid Review - Dead for a Dollar (2022), Matt Harris, Walter Hill, Walter Hill, Christoph Waltz, Willem Dafoe, Rachel Brosnahan, Hamish Linklater, Benjamin Bratt, Warren Burke, Guy Burnet, Brandon Scott, Scott Peat, Luis Chávez, Shawn-Caulin Young, Jackamoe Buzzell, Diane Villegas, Herman Johansen, Fidel Gomez, J.D. Garfield, Alfredo Quiroz
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With: Christoph Waltz, Willem Dafoe, Rachel Brosnahan, Hamish Linklater, Benjamin Bratt, Warren Burke, Guy Burnet, Brandon Scott, Scott Peat, Luis Chávez, Shawn-Caulin Young, Jackamoe Buzzell, Diane Villegas, Herman Johansen, Fidel Gomez, J.D. Garfield, Alfredo Quiroz
Written by: Matt Harris, Walter Hill
Directed by: Walter Hill
MPAA Rating: R for violence, some sexual content/graphic nudity and language
Running Time: 106
Date: 09/30/2022
IMDB

Dead for a Dollar (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bounty Lines

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Fans of veteran director Walter Hill will appreciate his latest, sturdy Western, Dead for a Dollar, although the vivid characters and Hill's personal touch emerge more clearly, and more memorably, than the convoluted plot does.

It's 1897, and bounty hunter Max Borlund (Christoph Waltz) is hired by a prominent businessman, Mr. Kidd (Hamish Linklater), to track down his wife, Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan), who has apparently been abducted by a Black soldier, Elijah (Brandon Scott). Teamed up with another soldier, Sgt. Poe (Warren Burke), they track down their quarry in Mexico and discover that, indeed, the couple ran away together. They have also demanded a ransom, with which they hope to escape.

Having been misled by Kidd, Borlund decides to help them, but there are three problems. One is Mexican landowner Tiberio Vargas (Benjamin Bratt), who protects his territory with an iron fist, and has demanded half of the ransom money for himself. Another is gambler and gunfighter Joe Cribbens (Willem Dafoe), whom Borlund put behind bars for five years, and who just may be interested in revenge. Third, is Mr. Kidd himself, who is getting closer, and most certainly seeking vengeance.

Hill has made more than twenty movies since 1975, mainly masculine genre movies (war movies, action movies, Westerns) and studies in territory, exploring as characters find themselves out of place, and needing to re-assess in order to survive. Dead for a Dollar is a typical brisk, tough Hill film, fitting right in with these themes. Its main drawback is the strange hurry-up-and-wait quality of the story, as all the characters make their way to Mexico for the ultimate showdown. It never quite achieves the necessary snap of tension that it promises.

But there's plenty to look at while we wait. Waltz gives a fine performance as the bounty hunter, suggesting plenty of history and wisdom behind each careful move he makes. Dead for a Dollar opens with a terrific scene, as Borlund visits Cribbens on his last day of prison, attempting to determine whether Cribbens has revenge on his mind. In this scene and in many others, the actors seem to feed off of one another's energy like in a tense poker game, reading each other's tells and adjusting appropriately.

The finale showcases a master's use of space and rhythm, as well as strong representation (the Black and female characters get in on the action). All in all, this is not a great movie, but it's one for those that appreciate what a seasoned pro can bring to the card table.

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