DEAD FOR A DOLLAR
(director/writer: Walter Hill; screenwriter: Matt Harris; cinematographer: Lloyd Ahern II; editor: Phil Norden; music: Xander Rodzinski; cast: Willem Dafoe (Joe Cribbens), Christolph Waltz (Max Borlund), Rachel Brosnahan (Rachel Kidd), Warren Burke (Sgt. Poe), Benjamin Bratt (Tiberio Vargas), Hamish Linklater (Martin Kidd), Brandon Scott (Elijah Jones), Luis Chavez (Esteban Romero), Fidel Gomes (Capt. Miguel Aragon), Guy Burnett (English Bill), Alfredo Quiroz (Deputy Enrique Bustamante), Scott Peat (Jack Tyree), Diane Villegas (Esperanza Hinajosa), J.D. Garfield (Luis Andrade); Runtime: 114; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Kirk D’Amico, Neil Dunn, Carolyn McMaster, Berry Meyerowitz, Jeff Sackman, Jeremy Wall; Myriad Pictures/Quiver; 2022)
“Disappointing low-budget Western.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The veteran 80-year-old filmmaker Walter Hill (“48 Hours”/”The Warriors”) is the outdated director and writer of this disappointing low-budget Western, that gets just about everything wrong. It’s a film he dedicates to the late great filmmaker Budd Boetticher, who died in 2001.
The impressive cast that’s wasted include the following: Christoph Waltz plays the stoic good guy bounty hunter Max Borland, whose second gun is the Army’s Black Sergeant Poe (Warren Burke); Willem Dafoe is Max’s crafty card-shark ugly old foe Joe Cribbins, just released from prison and heading for Mexico to start a new life; Benjamin Bratt is the powerful bad guy Mexican gangster Tiberio; The gangster’s English speaking assistant is Luis Chávez as Romero; Rachel Brosnahan is Rachel Kidd a privileged white lady on the run with her soldier deserter Black lover Elijah (Brandon Scott); and Hamish Linklater is the dastardly mustached wealthy landowner husband in hot pursuit.
The only new feature Hill offers the old-time Western genre film is tossing in racial issues, such as Rachel’s Black Buffalo Soldier who deserted.
Max and his military companion Sergeant Poe (Warren Burke) have been sent south of the border to bring back Rachel, the American bride who has been reported as a kidnap victim. Once they’re on the turf of the Mexican bandit, she promises Tiberio money if gets them to Cuba.
Race issues become apparent through its two black characters and many Mexicans inserted into the story. But how the races relate to each other is treated without any real significance or understanding in this tedious and unimpressive film that couldn’t be more superficial.
It has empty dialog, with such lines as the Mexican gangster telling the white pursuers of the alleged kidnapping vic “You’re in Mexico motherfucker. Down here the gringo is not the boss!”
In the end, everyone involved in the plot descends on the same Mexican town for the classical shootout, a scene that couldn’t have been filmed much worse. It ends with not one character I could care about or root for, and nothing cleared-up about what it all means.
The film’s most hideous performance goes to Brosnahan (even if a first-rate actress), whose one-note performance shows me how much Hill is lost in the modern world’s social changes, as the lady without even a hint of irony cries out in vain that “It doesn’t seem right Elijah being in jail while I’m in a fancy hotel.”
The only thing impressive about Hill’s film is that it exists.
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2022 GRADE: C