Wild Bill

Jeff Bridges stars as Wild Bill Hickok in an ambitious and flavorsome picture by writer-director Walter Hill–based on Thomas Babe’s play Fathers and Sons and Peter Dexter’s novel Deadwood–that’s not only a western but also a western saga and an art picture of sorts. Very striking to look at it in terms of Joseph Nemec III’s production design and Lloyd Ahern’s cinematography (with varying uses of black and white as well as color), the film ultimately comes up short when it has to deal with Hickok as something other than a legend; Hill is hampered as usual by his fixation on iconography over everything else. Ellen Barkin seems a bit uncomfortable with her underwritten part as Calamity Jane, but the remainder of the cast–including John Hurt, Diane Lane, David Arquette, Christina Applegate, Bruce Dern, James Gammon, and Marjoe Gortner–does a pretty good job of playing scenery, and Keith Carradine turns in a nice bit as Buffalo Bill. You may feel a little let down by the end of this movie because it hasn’t managed to marshal all its virtues, but there’s plenty of grit and atmosphere along the way. Water Tower.

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