Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead is a vengeance tale crowded in adoration for the western, but the director's penchant for screwball zaniness confuses the overall tone, undecided as a serious revenge drama or a satirical caricature of the genre. On 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the movie hits its mark thanks to a beautiful 4K HDR10 presentation and a magnificent Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but with only one new bonus feature exclusive to the UHD, the overall package is ultimately Worth a Look for devoted fans.
Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead is a brazenly unapologetic love-letter to the western as a whole while also passionately chucking rose petals of praise to the Italian western. And this was reportedly the intention set forth by Simon Moore's script from the onset. However, as promising as that may seem on paper — and putting the filmmakers' motives aside — the story about the town of Redemption and its bloody competition of dueling gunfighters fails to win top marks. Raimi's penchant for screwball antics and Looney Tunes-like zaniness doesn't translate well to a genre traditionally more pensive while painting a majestic scenic portrait of the wilderness with a broad, sweeping paintbrush. To be fair, there are few sudden bursts of talented visuals, some moments cleverer than others while at other times, the camera is simply having fun — a bullet barrage of canted angles. But the director of the Evil Dead and Spider-Man trilogies tackles the material with such exuberant spiritedness that certain spots feel less sincere or knowing and more accidental.
It makes for a somewhat confusing viewing experience as the overall tone continuously teeters between genuinely heartfelt enthusiasm and a fanciful chimerical caricature of the genre. Essentially, the movie can't decide on being an allusion-littered satirical tale or a deadly serious western drama on revenge and, ahem . . . well, redemption. (The Quick and the Dead came out three years before Raimi proved he was capable of weighty material in A Simple Plan.) Sharon Stone's mysterious gunslinger Ellen is basically a reimagining of Charles Bronson's "Harmonica" from Sergio Leone's classic epic Once Upon a Time in the West while Gene Hackman's sadistically callous, tyrannical mayor John Herod is plainly modeled after Henry Fonda's all-black villain Frank. Again, it's a clever concept, especially seeing Stone as the iconic silently brooding and morally-ambiguous outlaw. It's an entertaining enough popcorn B-feature for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but the film is ultimately remembered for introducing Russell Crowe to American audiences.
For a more in-depth take on the movie, you can read our review of the Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings The Quick and the Dead to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a Digital Copy code. Said code can be redeemed via SonyPictures.com, MoviesAnywhere, and VUDU, giving users access to the 1080p HD in Dolby Digital Stereo. Inside the black, eco-vortex case with glossy slipcover, the double-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 copy. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background.
Raimi's cartoonish love-letter to the western genre wins at the quick draw with a fantastic and occasionally gorgeous HEVC H.265 encode, offering loyal fans an excellent upgrade. Originally shot on traditional 35mm film, the nearly 25-year-old source appears to be in outstanding condition, awash in a thin layer of natural grain for that beautiful film-like quality. Beneath all that, fine lines and objects are distinct and clear in the distance though there is the infrequent moments of blurriness sprinkled throughout and some instances of ringing around the edges of buildings due to the high-contrast photography. Nevertheless, the wood grain of buildings, individual pebbles on the road and the various imperfections of the town are plainly visible while facial complexions are often stunning with lifelike textures during the many close-ups, revealing every pore, wrinkle, and blemish of the sunburnt faces of the cast.
As previously mentioned, the film was deliberately shot hotter than normal to reflect the scorching climate, and this 2160p transfer appears faithful to Dante Spinotti's photographic intentions, pushing contrast in several places to the point of blooming. Thankfully, the HDR processing keeps everything in check, displaying brilliantly crisp and radiant whites although much of the cinematography looks fairly dirty, muted and interestingly restrained, making for a fascinating watch on the relatively-new format. Specular highlights offer arguably the most noteworthy improvement, making the sunshine glimmer and glisten off metallic objects, glasses full of beer and various other wet surfaces twinkle and shine with realism. Black levels are also richer and more full-bodied with appreciable gradational differences, providing the 1.85:1 image with a lovely cinematic appeal. Only issue is that shadows details during poorly-lit interiors are not always the strongest, yet background information remains decently visible.
Spinotti's highly stylized photography severely skews the overall palette to blazing hot yellows and boiling earth tones, giving the town a thickly gross, sticky and burning feeling. This doesn't leave much room for primaries to really shine, especially greens, but the sky is a lovely cerulean and arctic blue in some places while reds in a few articles of clothing and blood are a combination of either thick sangria, brick, cherry and rose. The weather outside is showered in lots of amber, marmalade, honey and cider oranges complemented with a wide arrangement of browns, rust, bronze and mocha of the buildings, furniture and costumes. Sunsets are a lovely array of pinks, magentas, and indigo, and flesh tones meant to look sunburnt appear as though spray tanned with mild hints of rosiness in the cheeks. The final quarter of the film lights the screen with fiery explosions that show superb detailing within the hottest areas, making this 4K presentation a terrific upgrade and a fun watch. (Video Rating: 85/100)
Dangerous gunslingers take to the street and demonstrate their aural skills with a magnificently spectacular Dolby Atmos soundtrack that'll leave the house ringing from the all the gunfire.
The engineers at Sony did a fantastic job carefully selecting specific noises into the ceiling speakers that also matched the on-screen visuals, such as the echo of drunk, rowdy bar patrons or someone walking on the second floor. Occasionally, other effects, like a stray bullet or debris from explosions, discretely travel overhead and land in other areas of the room, but for a majority of the runtime, the space above is mostly quiet with the sporadic atmospheric sound for maintaining a generally amusing hemispheric environment. The sides and rears are employed more often, and understandably so, given the genre. Aside from the action sequences bombarding the listener boisterous applause and cheers or the thundering ringing from gunshots, various ambient effects provide a terrifically satisfying 360° soundfield.
A great deal of the attention, however, is focused across the fronts, layered with plenty of background activity that often travels into the top heights to generate an engagingly broad soundstage. Alan Silvestri's score also bleeds into the sides and overheads without seeming forced or strained while also revealing excellent fidelity and warmth. With the added breathing room, the design enjoys better clarity and detailing in the dynamic range, maintaining strong distinction and separation during the loudest segments. Vocals are precise and well-prioritized at all times, allowing for every silly line to be enjoyed. Low bass is responsive and surprisingly imposing in some spots, providing gunshots with a hearty punch while explosions in the climactic fight shock with a wall-rattling presence. (Audio Rating: 88/100)
All of the same supplements are ported over from previous home video release, which can be read in more detail in our review of the standard Blu-ray HERE, but for this 4K edition, Sony Pictures added one bonus feature exclusive to this version, further tempting owners to upgrade.
Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead is a vengeance tale crowded in adoration for the western, but the director's penchant for screwball zaniness confuses the overall tone, unable to decide if it wants to be taken as a serious revenge drama or a satirical caricature of the genre. Starring Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio and Gene Hackman, the film is nonetheless an entertaining enough popcorn B-feature for a lazy Sunday afternoon, but it will remain ultimately remembered for introducing Russell Crowe to American audiences. On 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, the unusually wacky western hits its mark, equipped with a beautiful 4K HDR10 presentation that offers a noteworthy improvement over its HD SDR counterpart while a magnificent Dolby Atmos soundtrack energizes the room with thrilling dueling action. Porting over the same set of supplements along with one lone new exclusive, the overall package is ultimately worth a look, making a nice addition to the UHD library.