dir Timothy Woodward Jr
scr Michael Lanahan
prd Lauren De Normandie, Christopher Brian Nicoletti, Henry Penzi, Timothy Woodward Jr
with Luke Hemsworth, Kris Kristofferson, Trace Adkins, Bruce Dern, Cameron Richardson, Kaiwi Lyman, Hunter Fischer, Max Bogner, Alan Donnes, Bertrand Corbi, Stephen Brown, Brittany Williams
release US 7.Jul.17
17/US 1h28
Swaggering lawmen: Lyman and Hemsworth

kristofferson dern
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Hickok Based on the true story of a Wild West legend, this movie looks the part but struggles under the weight of its cliched script and clunky filmmaking. What remains is a Western that takes all of the most obvious twists and turns, while never bothering to get beneath the skin of its title character. But there's plenty of gristle here to make him a fascinating bad guy gone good.

Seven years after the Civil War, outlaw Bill Hickok (Hemsworth) is working through the brothels of Texas when the Abilene mayor (Kristofferson) offers him a job enforcing the law for a change. As problems spring up with trigger-happy drunken locals, Bill runs into his angry old flame Mattie (Richardson), who's afraid that he'll reveal her dodgy past to her fiance, ruthless businessman Phil (Adkins). After a couple of violent shootouts, Bill bans firearms in town, which doesn't make him very popular. So he deputises Arkansas (Lyman), the only man who dares to challenge his authority.

While the film was clearly made on a budget (the "epic" opening battlefield scene features about a dozen soldiers), the production design is quite slick and the music suitably surging, while director Woodward shows some style with the camera. On the other hand, he encourages the cast to broadly overstated performances that make every scene feel cheesy. It doesn't help that the dialog is simply terrible (Phil actually tells Mattie not to worry her pretty little head). As the forces of evil conspire to take Bill down, it only gets cornier.

Usually in the shadow of his younger, starrier brothers, Hemsworth gets the chance to shine as the charismatic, hunky Bill who, as Mattie observes with a wink, only has "one particular skill: killin' people". Veterans Kristofferson and Dern (as the local doctor) add some grit to the movie, and Adkins has some steely energy as Bill's nemesis. Richardson never has a chance with her thinly written role. So the most interesting side character is Lyman's over-confident gunslinger.

Woodward never quite manages to generate any thrills or drama, and shies away from bawdiness. All that's left is the character interaction, which is intriguing despite the dialog rather than because of it. There's a whiff of what this could have been, a look at the complex origin of the larger-than-life legend. But Lanahan's screenplay can't help but boil everything down to the simplest stereotypes and most basic plot formula.

cert 12 themes, language, violence, sexuality 4.Jul..17

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