Wild Bill

on December 01, 1995 by Pat Kramer
   Most westerns celebrate the romance of the wild west; carving away all nostalgia, with "Wild Bill" writer/director Walter Hill ("Geronimo: An American Legend") shows the hardened nature of one of the era's most famous gunmen. Adapting Thomas Babe's play "Fathers and Sons" and Pete Dexter's novel "Deadwood," Hill delineates a man immortalized for his ruthlessness as much as for his sharpshooting.
   As Hickok cohort Calamity Jane, Ellen Barkin gives a fair performance as a men-slugging, whiskey-downing, love-starved woman. Despite Barkin's earnest performance, her good looks don't make a convincing match for her character. As Wild Bill, however, Bridges has uncanny zest. With bare but essential ingredients, he's able to convey a great depth of character, giving us just a glimpse beneath his outer pugnacity to disclose a truer spirit that, in Hickok's quest for survival, never got to see the light of day.    Starring Jeff Bridges. Directed and written by Walter Hill. Produced by Richard D. Zanuck and Lili Fini Zanuck. A UA release. Western. Rated R for Wild West violence and a sex scene. Running time: 97 min.
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