Directed by: Walter Hill
Friday, May 4 - Saturday, May 5, 2012
35mm print “Most of Walter Hill’s WILD BILL takes place during the last days of Wild Bill Hickok’s life, as he grapples with the residue of his rip-snorting, showdown-filled career. ‘Maybe you can help me,’ mutters the gunfighter to the Chinese woman who runs an opium den, though she doesn’t understand him. ‘Where the hell did things go wrong?’
“That gives WILD BILL the makings of a sunset western, mournfully dedicated to a hero’s regrets and the taxidermic perfecting of his legend. But Mr. Hill’s film turns out to be much more interesting than that, bristling with a vitality that belies the nearness of Hickok’s doom. This imaginatively offbeat western, on a par with Mr. Hill’s Long Riders, tries to embrace the full range of pride, sorrow and doubt prompted by Hickok’s exploits. Along the way, it assesses the glare of celebrity that made Hickok both star and target, ruefully calculating the price of fame.
“WILD BILL is impressive for a thoughtful, daring spirit and a charismatic hero, so unapologetically larger than life… Hickok is played with fierce, leonine presence by Jeff Bridges, who gives a beautifully nuanced performance in a tricky role. Though it begins with Hickok’s funeral, the film reaches far enough back in time to watch him as an intrepid young frontiersman whose reputation had yet to be made. It also moves forward to find him sodden and bleary, fending off his private demons while trying to maintain the gruff exterior for which others prize him. Throughout it all, Mr. Bridges gives Hickok enormous physical authority while still finding room to explore his private faltering, though it by no means overwhelms the finished portrait. WILD BILL is unusual in suggesting that its hero, though finally well aware of his shortcomings, might not have chosen to live his life any other way.” – Janet Maslin, The New York TimesR, 98 Minutes