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Review Dollar for the Dead (TV movie 1998): Tribute to the Spaghetti western in John Woo style!

genre: western, action, bullet ballet






Now before you get all excited after reading the tagline, a word of caution. Dollar for the Dead is a TV movie with most likely a very low budget. Since it looks and feels like a very amateurish production. There are fan made films that look better. That being said there is a charm to the film.

The fact that it plays out like an old school Spaghetti western is a big plus for me. Somehow for me those are more fun. Probably because they are rawer and more stylish. What makes Dollar for the Dead a little more unique and charming is the fact that it has added Hong Kong style action or rather John Woo type of bloodshed. Heavily flawed since the editing and the use of slow motion is not consistent. Also the choreography is not of the super high standard that John Woo has set. It's funny how director Gene Quintano was more inspired by John Woo than Sam Peckinpah who had inspired Woo into adapting his own unique style. The Wild Bunch for example is very reminiscent of what John Woo is populair for. In any case, again proof that the master is unapproachable. He is far more than just doves and slowmo like most think. But I can't deny that there are some surprising moments infused by Quintano that brought a smile to my face. Totally ridiculous and over the top but fun. It's unfortunate that Quintano doesn't know how to build up momentum properly. Largely the bad editing is the cause of this. Too often it happens that you are taken out of the action or that scenes end without making it clear of what is going on. 

In one scene for example a bunch of soldiers including villain Jordi Molla as Federale captain are attacking the protagonist called Cowboy (played by Emilio Estevez) and his comrade in arms Dooley (played by William Forsythe). The captain is shot. Then not shown again. I assumed he was dead. Then in a couple of scenes after he you seem him prancing around without a scratch on him. 

It's unnecessarily confusing and removes any tension. I think this is the biggest flaw. It barely feels there is something at stake. I mean Emilio Estevez has enough charm to make you root for him but at times it does seem he is not entirely present. His performance is a far cry from his Billy role in Young Guns. Then again, he is not even named. People just refer to him as Cowboy. Very much in the same vein as the man without a name. So in a way it fits the film. But I did miss drama. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for example interchanged action with comedy and drama. Actually the drama was at the forefront. It was the one element that tied everything together and makes it the masterpiece that it is. Is it fair of me to compare this small little tv film with a cinematic masterpiece? Of course not. But even small films can be great. And Dollar for the Dead is pretty average in that regard.

One to watch on a rainy Sunday or very late at night. 








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