B Westerns were a big deal for a while for a certain section of the film going population. During the 1950s there were a ton of B Westerns made. Then they just fell out of vogue. But obviously some fans and filmmakers did not forget them. One of those filmmakers is none other than the infamous Walter Hill. Yes, that Walter Hill. The man who made The Warriors, The Driver, 48 Hrs, Brewster’s Millions, Red Heat, and many more. He has been directing, writing and producing films since the 1970s. His latest is a lean and mean B Western called Dead for a Dollar with Willem Defoe, Christoph Waltz and Rachel Brosnahan.
Often, partially because of the films he has chosen to make, the career of Walter Hill has been dismissed as made up mostly of fluff. That is a serious mistake. The man knows how to make a film. The thing is other than the rare one like 48 Hrs. they are not ones that appeal to the masses. He is a niche filmmaker and there is nothing wrong with that.
Here is another one that will not have ’em running to theatres. Dead for a Dollar seems simple but it isn’t. Not at all. Filled with choices to be made of the ethical variety. Though like many Westerns it is basically a case of everyone just trying not to get killed. Though because it is a Western you know that some of them won’t make it to the ending credits. That is a shame as every one of the characters in the film has something about them that makes you want to watch them.
Hill demonstrates that even at the age of 80 he still has confidence in what he is doing. He and this film won’t be rushed. There is a slow burn kinda thing going on here. It builds and builds. Then takes its time to build some more. But don’t worry as there is a payoff.
Ex-con Joe Cribbens (Willem Defoe – Spider-Man: No Way Home, John Wick) is out and feeling loose. HE is out and about in New Mexico after having gotten out of jail. What he has on the back of my mind at all times is his want for revenge against bounty hunter Max Borlund (Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained, Inglourious Basterds). The two do run into each other but revenge is going to have to wait.
Max is busy with his latest job. He has been hired by a rich man named Kidd (Hamish Linklater – The Big Short, 42) to bring back his wife (Rachel Brosnahan – from television’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), who has run off with a Black former American soldier (Brandon Scott – appeared in episodes of 13 Reasons Why and Dead to Me) in Mexico.
Of course, the two men are going to meet up again and it is not going to be a battle of words and looks this time.
Loyalty and honour are at the heart of everything in this film. Those archetypal themes of Western movies. though it is slow, Hill (even at the age of 80) tells it and sells. In that end, he is aided greatly by his cast. They are all solid and breathe life into their characters. This is a good B Western that might end up in the Walter Hill cult favourites list.