The Quick and the Dead

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
The Quick and the Dead Movie Poster Image
Frequent gun violence in quirky '90s Western.
  • R
  • 1995
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Not much in the way of positive messages in this Western shoot-'em-up.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although the movie and characters are firmly rooted in the conventions of a Western, Ellen emerges as an atypically tough and independent woman and a refreshing variation on the classic "strong, silent type."

Violence

Frequent Western-style gun violence. Explosions, fistfights, knife fights. There is an implied rape of a young girl by an old man.

Sex

After an all-night drinking binge, Ellen wakes up in the bed of a younger man who implies that they slept together. Prostitutes walk around and leer at passersby.

Language

"A--hole." "Ass." "Chickens--t." "Playing with yourself."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink whiskey and beer to excess and act intoxicated. They also smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Quick and the Dead is filled with Western-style violence in the form of shoot-outs, gun and rifle play, fistfights, knife fights, and hangings. There also is a scene in which the rape of a young girl by an older man is strongly implied, and, in a flashback sequence, a young girl is forced to shoot a gun at her father, who is on the verge of being hung by bandits, and accidentally kills him. Although the general violence and mayhem isn't much different from classic Westerns, this movie does not shy away from showing, for instance, the hollow space left in the head after a bullet blasts through it. There is profanity ("chickens--t") and drinking and smoking. Families with older teens who enjoy Westerns will get a kick out of how this movie both celebrates and plays with the conventions and tropes of the genre.

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What's the story?

Ellen (Sharon Stone) is a stranger in a dismal Western town run by a ruthless criminal named Herod (Gene Hackman). While drinking in a tavern, Ellen witnesses a preacher named Cord (Russell Crowe), who is tied down in chains because Herod wants him to return to his ways as a gunslinger and all-around bandit. Cord is nearly killed by his refusal to take part in a tournament in which gunfighters show down at appointed times until the winner is the last man alive. When Ellen saves Cord's life, she is thrown into this competition, and as she shoots her way to victory from round to round, she schemes to find a way to kill Herod and get revenge for Herod helping to execute Ellen's father when she was a little girl.

Is it any good?

THE QUICK AND THE DEAD is very aware of the tropes and conventions of the classic Western and has fun using those elements to their fullest, as well as turning those conventions on their head. Although it's as violent as other Westerns -- and perhaps even more so at times -- there is an element of dark humor at play, both in the different gunslingers competing in the barbaric showdown competition against one another and in the way many of these gunslingers die.

As Ellen, Sharon Stone brings a "strong, silent" character to life and presents a strong female lead not often seen in Westerns. As the bandit/warlord of the rather depressing Western town, Gene Hackman brings a strong sense of wicked style as the evil Herod. The action is unrelenting, and although it treads heavily on familiar territory, The Quick and the Dead still manages to take a familiar genre and make it into something entirely its own.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Westerns. How is this movie similar to and different from "classic" Westerns from the 1950s and 1960s?

  • How is Ellen different from the way woman are usually portrayed in Westerns?

  • Does the violence seem necessary to the story, or does it seem gratuitous?

Movie details

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