The Quick and the Dead (1995)
I've never really liked Sharon Stone in anything, and 'The Quick and the Dead' does little to change that. In fact, I'd say she was the weakest link in 'The Quick and the Dead', Sam Raimi's unique and entertaining take on the Western. Stone plays "The Lady", a grim and mysterious woman who enters the town of Redemption to take part in a gunfighting contest held by the town's tyrannical overlord John Herod (Gene Hackman). Her reasons for taking part are initially unclear, but it soon becomes apparent that she has vengeance on her mind, and that she can shoot with the best of them. A wide variety of colourful characters also enter the elimination based contest, many of whom have agendas of their own, including "The Kid" (a young Leonardo DiCaprio), a reluctant preacher named Cort (pre-fame Russel Crowe), and a braggard named Ace Hanlon (Lance Henrikson). That's pretty much the plot - what follows is the interactions between the trigger happy contestants that typically culminate in a series of tense shootouts.
Not only do I think that Stone is miscast, I also think she delivers a weak performance. That and the fairly basic plot and characterization are the major drawbacks of the film, though they aren't all that significant when you consider that this is first and foremost an entertaining action film with larger than life characters; characters that are wonderfully brought to life by a fantastic cast. Hackman, Crowe, DiCaprio, Henrikson, Keith David, Tobin Bell, and Gary Sinise (in a bit part) all deliver, and infuse their sketchy characters with a lot of personality. There are bristled egos aplenty that result in scenes full of posturing, glaring, shouting, and of course shooting. The signature action sequences are the shootouts, and they are realized with great style and energy by Raimi. Restrained this film ain't; there's a surreal, alternate universe like over-the-top feel to it. Visually the film looks great in a "hyper stylized Western" kind of way, and there's a pretty decent and lively score from Alan Silvestri.
As far as distinctively stylized Westerns go, there aren't many to choose from, giving 'The Quick and the Dead' the edge as it's quite good and very entertaining. There are no real surprises, but the fun is in seeing how things play out, and in that regard the film works.