Ellen is a female gunslinger who rides into town to settle an old childhood score
Imagine, if you will, that Sharon Stone was a man. It would be totally acceptable for her (him) to attain world fame by starring in glossy popcorn action thrillers and baring her (his) chest; to harbour behind-the-camera aspirations; to be fit, fast and feisty. And if her latest movie was a daft, self-contained cartoon Western in which she (he) played a silent-but-deadly gunslinger, that would be dandy. As it is, she's a woman, and so making shallow hokum like this seems to bring Shazza little but scorn.
Shirt almost buttoned up, in classic Leone-Eastwood style, Stone rides, silently, dustily and moodily into the town of Redemption. She's Ellen, and she has a childhood score to settle. The town is holding its annual gunslinging contest (a strict local custom in which pistol-packers young and old, local and not, shoot to the death - it's very much a knock-out tournament). Ellen enters, keeps her motivation quiet, and works her way to the contest's nub. Redemption's despotic self-styled big cheese - he's the one with the only nice house on the street - Herod (Hackman, loving every minute of it), becomes fascinated with Ellen, and as the bullet-a-thon unfolds, gets sucked into conflict with both her and his own cocky young son (a sparky, unrealistic Leonardo DiCaprio). Meanwhile, preacherman Cort (the astonishingly handsome Crowe) is forced to conquer his own self-righteous pacifism.
Raimi's chosen mode of direction is larger-than-life. Just as his infamous Evil Deads invited knowing sniggers, this ankle-deep story has a cheekful of tongue, providing opportunities galore for hammy, quick-draw melodrama and even some outrageous Bugs Bunny-style bullet holes (one with a shaft of light shining through it!). It's a perfect plateful of ham for Stone, a great movie decision: it's silly, it's surreal, it's shot full of holes - it's Clint Eastwood with all the macho posturing done by a woman.
this ankle-deep story has a cheekful of tongue, providing opportunities galore for hammy, quick-draw melodrama and the perfect vehicle for Ms. Stone