I was browsing through the movies on Netflix the other day when I saw Walter Hill’s Wild Bill – brilliant I thought, I’ll watch that again. As I started to watch it I was shocked by the low star ratings from other viewers. It was something like two stars out of five for what is, to me, a classic western.
Maybe I’m out of step with the taste of the general public (I hope so!), or maybe it’s because fans of Deadwood the TV series are disappointed with what Hill did with the same novel on which Deadwood is based.
Fans of Deadwood might not realise that Walter Hill directed the first episode and set the tone for the brilliant series. Yes, I too really like Deadwood, but I’m not disappointed by Hill’s take on the Wild Bill legend. This is a really good, clever movie, but it is hampered by a topsy turvy flashback structure that uses high contrast video in a distracting way.
Those moans aside, the film has a cracking script, with great dialogue, some great performances particularly from Jeff Bridges (he’s nasty as Bill), John Hurt is good and the always reliable Ellen Barkin plays Calamity Jane very well.
Maybe this is an older person’s film, it has an end of the world feel about it, and a ‘times are changing’ vibe which would fit in well with Peckinpah’s best films. The opening ten minutes feature scene after scene of classic western filmmaking. Almost like a montage of greatest hits. Hill always creates great openings for his best films.
So, what I’d say is that if you’re browsing through Netflix, don’t be put off by the low ratings of some films. Wild Bill is an acquired taste for some, but it pays to watch it right up until the final scene. Hill is one of the last great directors of westerns. Give him a chance – he knows what he’s doing.
The trailer is below…
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. Matthew was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge, the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org