Dead for a Dollar movie review (2022)

ytsfreeSeptember 6, 2022

“Because Mr. Hill is still, in most respects, Mr. Hill, a lot of the movie is more watchable than it has a right to be,” I concluded. And because “Dead for a Dollar” is a Western, I thought it had a good chance of avoiding the pitfalls of “The Assignment.”

Sure enough it does, even as it deliberately positions itself in potentially inflammatory territory. “Dead” begins with widescreen imagery of a magnificent and punishing American Southwest landscape; from a distance, we see a rider and horse followed by another horse whose rider is holding a parasol as a shield from the sun. These two are Elijah Jones, an Army deserter, and Rachel Kidd, who is, depending on who’s telling the narrative, either his willing companion or his abductee.

Christoph Waltz plays Max Borlund, a bounty hunter who will soon be hired to track this pair down. Before that, we learn of a grudge between him and Joe Cribbens, a gambler and bank robber who spent five years in jail on account of Max. Max visits Joe on the day before he’s to be released from a dusty cell and informs him that whatever Joe thinks Max owes him, he ain’t going to get it and he’d best keep away. We know their paths have to cross again. This picture, written by Hill and Matt Harris, is going to be firmly In The Tradition.

This is true even as it adds new points of interest to the scenario. As in Elijah Jones (Brandon Scott) is Black, and Rachel Kidd (Rachel Brosnahan) is white. Jones’ commander is rightly outraged, as is Rachel’s wealthy husband (Hamish Linklater). Their story is that Jones kidnapped Rachel and is demanding $10,000 for her return. That’s half true. The whole truth is that Rachel, an abused wife, and Jones have run off together and seek the money to complete their getaway, to Cuba perhaps. At first, all Max really knows is that he’ll get $2,000 to complete their return. To assist in this end, the Army lends Max a sharpshooter named Poe (Warren Burke), a friend of Jones who’s also Black.

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