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Deadwood: The Movie

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Deadwood: The Movie TV Poster Image
Beloved profanity-laced Western gets a fab final sendoff.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

This was a turbulent era, and often cruel to those who lived through it -- lots of casual sexism, racism, and violence is to be expected. Still, even in the gritty muck, Deadwood: The Movie winds up its story with flashes of hope: new families and partnerships forming, well-loved community members being respectfully laid to rest, troubled adventurers striking out to seek new beginnings. The main theme at work in this series coda is the inevitability of progress and the growing pains that accompany it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Even the most upright citizens in Deadwood are seriously flawed folk. Even when a character's anger is justified, or their cause is righteous, the way they go about expressing such things is usually highly questionable and often involves a lot of violence and alcohol.

Violence

Everyone's packing heat; gunfights are part and parcel of life here and someone's always mopping up blood. A character is dragged around with a noose and nearly hanged, others are stabbed, shot, and beaten senseless. 

Sex

Sex is a commodity in Deadwood, with many scenes taking place in a brothel. Characters include former prostitutes, madams, and pimps. There's a shot of a woman opening her dressing gown and exposing her breasts, the camera doesn't linger. A scene of three female characters laying in bed together in various states of undress. 

Language

Over its three-year run, Deadwood became known for it's filthy yet oddly sophisticated-sounding dialogue, the movie is no different. You'll hear nearly every expletive under the sun, as well as new and creative combinations thereof, with "f--k" and "c--ksucker" the most common culprits. Racially insensitive, misogynistic, and religion-based slurs fly out of characters' mouths with wild abandon, which fits the time period -- yet by and large, the movie treats the characters they're aimed at with respect.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Tons of drinking and smoking. A character has so abused himself with alcohol over time that he's wasting away from cirrhosis of the liver, a condition for which he stubbornly refuses medical treatment.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Deadwood: The Movie is an expletive- and violence-laden Western that wraps up the critically acclaimed three-season HBO series by the same name, which was canceled in 2006. The story takes place in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1889, and the cultural attitudes among the characters reflect that: racial slurs are uttered without a second thought, violence is an everyday occurrence, and women's life choices are extremely limited. Viewers can expect to see shootouts, beatings, and knife fights; a character falls prey to an attempted hanging. References to prostitution and drug addiction are common; characters are hard drinkers, with many scenes taking place in saloons or brothels. One of Deadwood's hallmarks, as a series, was its creative blend of flowery, Shakespearean-type language mixed with outrageous amounts of profanity -- and the tradition continues in this film, big time, with "c--ksuckers" and f-bombs galore. 

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What's the story?

DEADWOOD: THE MOVIE is a rough-and-tumble Western film that continues the story laid out in the HBO series of the same name, which ran from 2004-2006. Here, we catch up with the beloved cast of characters in the year 1889, as the formerly lawless camp of Deadwood is commemorating their newfound status as an official part of South Dakota and the Union. Season 3's main villain, mining magnate-turned-Junior Senator of California George Hearst (Gerald McRaney), returns to town to ostensibly help mark the occasion -- but more so, to solidify and expand his telephone business holdings by snapping up parcels of land in the area. Hearst's "by any means necessary" approach -- and his discovery that Trixie (Paula Malcomson), the prostitute who attempted to murder him in the past, is still alive -- leads to bloody conflict with brave but hot-headed U.S. Marshall Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) as well as Deadwood's most cutthroat yet complex inhabitant, the now-ailing Al Swearengen (Ian McShane).

Is it any good?

Picking up a storyline over a decade later seems like a fool's errand, but writer David Milch wisely makes use of the passage of time by turning the inevitability of change into the theme of the film. Fans of the late, lamented series will find much to love in Deadwood: The Movie, which thankfully proves itself to be more than just an exercise in nostalgia. The characters may be older and grayer -- some are much worse for wear, thanks to a lifetime of hard living and alcohol abuse -- but they're all still themselves at their core, and the reunions and confrontations feel earned and natural. A remarkable thing about Deadwood the series was its portrayal of characters in a way that was very much in keeping with the time period (life was rough, especially for minorities and women), yet it still afforded them a humanity and agency not always seen in period pieces. This nuanced approach continues in the film, which provides a highly satisfying send-off to a series that was cut down in its prime.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the complicated dual natures at work with many of Deadwood's residents. Seth Bullock is an honest, well-regarded man who sometimes crosses the line, violence-wise, when he feels he's in the right. Al Swearengen is an abusive, manipulative boss who also deeply loves the people he's brought into his inner circle. What motivates these characters to act this way? Do you think their behavior is a function of the time and place they are living in, or are these just personal quirks?

  • Talk about the enduring appeal of Westerns in film and TV. Why are audiences drawn to outlaw tales like Deadwood: The Movie, and what do you think about the way women and minorities are depicted?

TV details

For kids who love Westerns

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