“He fashioned himself as just an ordinary man, in no way special. But of course, that was a deception. By luck or design it had fallen to him to play the hero’s part, and in the very end, he embraced his fate.”
The legend of Will Bill Hickok is brought to life by Jeff Bridges in a brilliant performance in an otherwise extremely average film. Directed by Walter Hill, the 1995 film Wild Bill follows the last moments of the life of the famous gunslinger. Using some flashbacks, we see the regrets in the life of Bill Hickok as his health begins to fade and he turns to opium to relieve the pain. The majority of the film takes place after Wild Bill moves to Deadwood. Once there, he meets up with old friend Calamity Jane played by Ellen Barkin. Bill is suffering from cataracts in his eyes and quickly discovers there is a young man with a particular idea of vengeance lurking around, waiting for his opportunity to kill him.
There really isn’t much to the film in terms of plot and that’s not one of the weaknesses of the film. As I mentioned, the performance of Bridges is the reason to watch this film. If you don’t like Jeff Bridges, don’t bother watching this movie as it’s really an actor’s showcase. We get to see Bridges full into his western mode playing Bill in a performance that has hints of 2010’s True Grit. Alongside Bridges we have John Hurt who narrates the film and plays the made up character Charley Prince. There is no story behind this character, he is simply there to be the narrator of the film. Hurt is good as always with his smooth narration and likable qualities on screen.
Those were the only two performances I could really get along with out of the main cast. David Arquette once again proves his uselessness as Jack McCall, the man who killed Wild Bill. The character is supposed to be weak, yet Arquette plays this role with such an unbelievable accent and acting style it’s really a shame he’s in this film at all. Almost as bad is Ellen Barkin as Calamity Jane. Maybe this revulsion is due to the character as I’m more familiar with her in the HBO series Deadwood where she’s not an attractive woman full of make-up, polished white teeth and perfectly settled hair. For “one of the boys” Jane is completely unbelievable as a tom boy and comes off as play acting much in the same way that Arquette does. The storyline is familiar, the acting outside of Hurt and Bridges is appalling but if you like the main character’s story, and Jeff Bridges as an actor, then there are much worse films than Wild Bill.