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Film / The Quick and the Dead

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The Quick and the Dead is a 1995 Western revolving around a Quick Draw shooting contest that attracts a variety of competitors, some of whom have personal reasons for taking a shot at the reigning champion.

On Dia de los Muertas, a mysterious Lady (Sharon Stone) rides into the small town of Redemption, Arizona. Redemption languishes under the iron fist of its mayor, John Herod (Gene Hackman), an outlaw turned gangster, and his cadre of thugs.

That night, the annual Quick Draw competition is open for sixteen brave competitors, who can order anything they wish on Herod's bill, so long that they remain in the contest, and the victor of the contest will win a massive sum of money. Of course, you have to survive long enough to win to get it, and Herod himself is a competitor, known for his ruthless skill with a gun.


There's also The Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio), Herod's son, the local gun and dry-goods salesman, who's no slouch with a gun, and aching to prove to his father he's just as good as him.

There's "Ace" Hanlon (Lance Henriksen), "The Terror of Tucson," renowned both for his trick-shooting skill and long body count.

There's Sgt. Cantrell (Keith David), a former Buffalo Solider turned Gentleman Adventurer, but is there more to him than meets the eye?

There's Cort (Russell Crowe), an outlaw turned preacher who's not there by choice, a former protege-in-crime of Herod's, pulled from his mission and forced to compete for Herod's amusement.

And then there's the Lady herself, who seems to have her own history both with the town and with John Herod...

The film is directed by Sam Raimi, and executive produced by his long-time collaborator Robert Tapert. Sharon Stone is also a co-producer.


Not to be confused with a completely different Western starring Sam Elliott, based on a story by Louis L'Amour.

This film provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The entire populace would rather see Herod dead than continuing to run the town, which is why they hire a gunfighter to challenge him in the contest.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The grand prize in the tournament is $123,000 (about $3 million in 2017 dollars). After the first round, Herod declares that all remaining fights are to the death.
  • The Ace: "Ace" Hanlon cultivates this image of himself. However, while he's a good trick shooter, he's actually a complete phony when it comes to killing. Herod is the true "genuine article".
  • Accidental Murder: Lady accidentally killed her father by failing to Shoot the Rope.
  • Action Girl: Lady is a gunfighter.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Lady is curt in response to Katie's adoration, until just before her first gunfight when Katie assure the Lady she will win; the Lady then strokes Katie's hair in thanks. Subverted when she survives.
    Katie: Lady, I think you're great!
    Lady: (pushing past her) Grow up.
  • And Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, because the actors who played The Hero and the Big Bad are both Billed Above the Title.
  • Animal Motifs: Herod's guns have rattlesnakes emblazened on the handles.
  • Apathetic Citizens: When they're not throwing rocks at a priest, they're pretending not to notice when a young girl gets raped. The fact that they're under the heel of a local warlord probably doesn't help their empathy.
  • Arbitrary Gun Power: The bullets range from blowing a gory hole through a man's head large enough for a view of the other shooter, to a neat hole that lets a single ray of sunlight through.
  • Arms Dealer: The Kid. The blind kid also has a collection of ammo for just about any gun. It's hinted that Herod makes most of his money this way.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The gun shop scene, where Herod takes Cort to get a gun from The Kid, clearly shows that the writers just tried to come up with prices that would make sense to moviegoers and didn't do any research. The Kid says a Colt .45 is worth $120. That would be about $3,000 in 2017 and way beyond the means of most if not all the people who would come to him looking to buy a gun. The beat-up pistol that he says is worth five dollars is about $130 in today's money, and actually would be about half of what someone could expect to pay for a brand new revolver back in 1881.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Herod is nigh unbeatable in a straight up gunfight and is only blindsided and killed by someone who he thought was already dead.
  • The Atoner: Cort, though he is fairly certain that his quest is in vain, due to the fact that he killed a priest at Herod's command.
  • Badass Boast: Ace is fond of these. Too bad he can't back any of them up. So is the Kid. Spotted Horse stands up on a table in the saloon and shows off the many scars from gunshots he has taken over the years. He's able to back it up too, as Cort isn't able to kill him with the first shot.
  • Bad Boss: After Herod finds out Ratsy injured Cort's hand, Herod gives him twenty seconds to get out of town. He doesn't get out in time.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • 'Ace' Hanlon is the first gunman the Lady encounters, introduced via a menacing shadow. This implies he'll be a major threat, but Herod exposes him as a fraud and kills him easily.
    • When the Kid duels Scars, he drops to his knees as if Scars had shot him. Then Scars body drops into view.
    • Unfortunately the opposite happens when he duels his father.
    • Then Herod is on the receiving end when he hits Lady, only to realize from his shadow there's a neat hole in his chest.
  • Battle in the Rain: The Lady's showdown with Eugene Dred takes place during a downpour, with the Lady and Eugene charging at each other, guns blazing.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension
    Cort: Last night the Kid, tonight Herod. Any man you're not interested in?
    Lady: Yeah: you.
  • Berserk Button:
    • The Lady despises Herod with the flaming passion of a thousand suns, and nearly draws down on him several times before she gets the chance to face him for real. She also goes for blood when she finds out that Katie, the teenage girl who idolized her, was raped by Eugene Dred.
    • Dog Kelly really hates his nickname, and those who bring up how he got it.
    • Cort tries to attack Herod after he's forced to shoot Lady; subverted when we realise this was meant to distract his men from her Not Quite Dead body.
    • Herod gets outright pissed when he discovers that Ratsy smashed Cort's gun hand in revenge for having his nose broken twice by Cort, denying Herod the satisfaction of ever knowing whether or not he's faster on the draw than Cort. He gives Ratsy twenty seconds to leave town just for the satisfaction of blowing him away as he's running.
  • Best Served Cold: The Lady becomes one of the best gunslingers in the West and marches into town and a possible death-by-Quick Draw just to have the chance to blow away Herod, who killed her father and took over the town that he protected as the sheriff, long ago when she was a child.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Everybody in the tournament carries a customised gun of some kind with nickle finishes and/or fancy engravings. Except for Cort, who is given an old, worn-out pistol, described as the cheapest gun in the shop.
  • Blood Knight: Herod talks a lot about the thrill he gets from putting his life at risk.
  • Blown Across the Room: Turned Up to Eleven with the bullet that kills Herod's death, that makes him do a perfect backflip when it hits.
  • Boring, but Practical: After seeing several Cool Guns, Cort admits he doesn't have any money, so Herod buys him the cheapest gun in the shop. As Cort is leaving, the Kid says, "That gun shoots straight. I wouldn't sell it if it didn't."
  • Break the Badass: Before his death, Kid was known for being a walking Badass Boast fountain, but in his last seconds of life, he is just a boy crying.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Herod does this to make the Lady back down from shooting him on their dinner date. She has a gun pulled under the table and he bluffs her with the click of a metal matchbox.
  • Braids of Action: Lady puts her Messy Hair into a neat single braid when she makes the decision to take on Herod in a duel. She goes back to Messy Hair for the final shootout though.
  • Bring the Anchor Along: The Lady knocks out Dog Kelly and shackles him to the wheel of an old wagon buried in the desert. Later Dog turns up in town, dragging the wagon wheel with him, and challenges the Lady to a duel.
  • Bullets Do Not Work That Way:
    • In the final shootout where Lady kills Herod, her shot puts a small, neat hole in him that allows the sunlight to shine through. In reality, handgun bullets from that era were slower and softer than bullets today, so it would have lacked the power or penetrating ability to go straight through him. In addition, if it had gone all the way through him, the hole would have only stayed open for a split-second before blood and internal organs closed it once more, and the exit wound would have been fist-sized or larger. He wouldn't have been in any condition to stand there contemplating his situation for several moments.
    • Even more absurd is Lady's following headshot, which somehow causes Herod to do a full backflip in midair. This of course is impossible no matter where a bullet hits someone in any part of the body. Furthermore, Herod starts screaming in terror before the bullet hits him, as if he somehow knew it would be a fatal headshot before it made contact.
  • Buried Treasure: It's implied that Dog Kelly has gone crazy searching for the outlaw cache because he can't remember the exact location.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Lady's entire motivation in entering the competition is to kill Herod, but Herod has no idea who she is despite her obvious discomfort—and later, loathing. His telling response to one of her barbs: "Do you have some particular problem with me?" Subverted when Lady throws her father's badge into the dirt before the final battle, and Herod instantly recognizes it.
  • But Now I Must Go: Once Lady has killed Herod she doesn't hang around for an encore; she just tosses her father's badge to Cort, gets on her horse and gallops off.
  • Cardboard Prison: Scars still wears his striped prison uniform, having just broken out of prison and come straight to the quick-draw competition.
    Scars: I got 35 years, but they let me out early.
    Blind Boy: How long did you do this time?
    Scars: 3 days.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Lady is about to challenge Herod while he's drinking at the bar when a hand falls on her shoulder. She turns and sees Dog Kelly, the prospector she left chained to a wagon wheel in the prologue, glaring at her.
    Dog: "I challenge you."
  • Chick Magnet: The Kid is constantly followed by his groupies.
  • Children Forced to Kill: Herod had the main character, as a young girl, attempt to shoot a hanging rope in two to save her father, but she missed the rope and hit him square in the forehead instead.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: With the exception of his duel against the Kid, Herod never outright kills his opponents, preferring to draw out their suffering by inflicting incapacitating wounds, then publicly humiliating them before finally finishing them off.
  • Confronting Your Imposter: Ace brags about how he killed the Terrence brothers. Herod calls him out because he was the one who really killed them, then shoots one of Ace's thumbs off and puts a bullet through his other hand before finally shooting him in the heart.
  • Cool Guns: Fully invoked, as Raimi had the different characters use a vastly different array of guns instead of giving everyone Colt Peacemakers, as some westerns were wont to do.
    • The Lady uses an EMF Hartford Single-Action Army.
    • Herod carries a Remington 1875 normally, but uses twin Colt "Civilian" Single-Action Armys in the fights.
    • The Kid uses a Cimarron Arms Single-Action Army.
    • Cort uses a Colt 1851 Navy.
    • Ace Hanlon uses a Colt Single-Action Army.
    • Gutzon uses a cap-and-ball LeMat 1861 model.
    • Dog Kelly uses a Colt 1860 Army.
    • Sergeant Clay Cantrell uses a Roger & Spencer .44, mounted on his belt with a swiveling "Bridgeport Rig" so he can fire without drawing.
  • Costume Porn: The outfits are all vintage period attire, weathered to look appropriately beaten up for everyone except Herod. Ditto for the guns, which were aged by dunking them in a swimming pool so they would rust.
  • Counting to Three: When Cort and Lady are forced to duel each other, Cort places his hands behind his back, gripping his belt so he won't be tempted to draw. Herod announces that his men will gun them both down at the count of ten if neither have drawn.
  • Crippling the Competition: Ratsy badly bruises Cort's right hand before his gunfight with Herod, forcing him to fight with his left hand. Since this effectively robs Herod of knowing if he really can best Cort, Herod is NOT happy about this.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    Scars: (leering right in Lady's face) You're pretty.
    Lady: You're not.
    Scars: I need a woman.
    Lady: You need a bath.
  • Death Glare: The Lady and the Kid try to stare down Herod, but their fear of him means they can't keep it up. It's only after Herod kills Kid that he walks away from Lady's glare.
  • Death Seeker: Cort would rather have been hanged than be forced to return to his violent ways. When Lady says she's too scared to take on Herod, the doctor replies she's more afraid of living than dying.
  • Deliberately Jumping the Gun: A Quick Draw tournament is held where both contestants start to draw when the town clock chimes the hour. Cort advises Lady that there's actually a click that comes from the clock just before the chime, and to listen for it and start drawing then, since it's too close to the chime for anyone watching to tell the difference.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Cort uses up his only bullet on Spotted Horse, but his wounded opponent keeps firing. The blind boy digs a suitable bullet from an ammo box by feel and throws it to Cort, who snags it in time for him to reload and finish the Indian off.
  • The Door Slams You: Ratsy is hitting and abusing Cort in the belief that he won't hit back. As he's thrown at Herod's feet, Cort suddenly lashes back with a foot, slamming the door in Ratsy's face and breaking his nose.
  • Double Entendre:
    Ace: Ya wanna play poker with me, little lady?
    Lady: Looks like you're having a pretty good time playing with yourself.
    (Ace finds that Actually Pretty Funny)
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Plenty of examples, but subverted when the Lady is working herself up to shoot Herod under the dinner table with a derringer, only to freeze when she hears a click. It turns out to be Herod clicking a silver matchbox lid to freak her out.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • Averted big time; contestants are robbed the moment they're confirmed dead.
    • The Lady breaks down in tears when she can't find her father's grave. Doc Wallace tells her that Herod's men smashed the gravestone and burnt the body.
    • The Kid is a noticeable exception, being gently carried off by the townspeople, unmolested.
    • When Cort shoots Lady, Doc Wallace angrily warns "the vultures" off from stripping the body. It's actually to prevent anyone from noticing she's Not Quite Dead.
  • Dynamic Entry: Cort is introduced by being thrown through the doors of the saloon, rolling across the floor and slamming up against the bar.
  • Eat the Dog: Dog Kelly was forced to eat his beloved dog or die of starvation. As mentioned in Berserk Button above, it is not advisable to bring this up around him.
  • Elite Mooks: Herod's nameless bodyguards have black hats, black dusters, and 15-round repeating rifles.
  • Ensemble Cast: Everyone gets roughly an equal amount of time in the limelight.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Herod changes the rules after the second round to make each contest a Duel to the Death, but he abides by the rule himself once it's declared. It doesn't stop him from telling his men to kill Cort if he's the winner of their duel. He warns the Kid multiple times to back out with no strings attached. Herod also hates liars and cowards.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While Herod refuses to acknowledge the Kid as his son repeatedly over the course of the film, he's the only person Herod actually seems to sympathize with. He warns him several times to back out of the content, and after Herod himself kills him in the contest, Herod appears remorseful.
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep": Just barely averted in the case of Horace the Bartender. The Kid uses his name, just once. Likewise, The Lady's name (Ellen) is only used in flashbacks to her childhood.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Scars, who cuts his arm every time he kills someone, and Spotted Horse, who gives a Badass Boast showing every bullet wound that failed to kill him.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Herod orders Cort to shoot the kind priest who nursed them both back to health. The way he sees it, the state troopers are still hot on their trail, by killing 'witnesses' they are tying up loose ends. Its not like the priest was doing it out of the goodness of his own heart or anything.
  • Evil Is Petty: Cort is on the receiving end of this from Herod's mooks, as they're trying to incite him to violence. When the blind kid sniggers at Lady's Deadpan Snarkery, Scars topples his stand.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Ace Hanlon, whose claims would make him the greatest gunslinger in the west. Too bad he attempted to claim credit for one of Herod's kills.
  • Faking the Dead: The Lady, Cort, the doctor and the blind kid concoct a scheme whereby Cort appears to kill the Lady in their contest, meaning Cort will face Herod in the final round, and the Lady can a dramatic and unexpected return.
  • Feet-First Introduction: A Slow Motion shot of Herod's boots walking across the floorboards, spurs jingling. This is used again in the flashback scenes. Then when Lady comes back from the dead, the jingly-spurs introduction is used for her.
  • Finish Him!: After defeating Dred in a spur-of-the-moment gunfight, the Lady balks at inflicting the Coup de Grâce as he's begging in front of her. Herod appears on the porch and insists she do so. The Lady refuses and goes back into the saloon. Dred obligingly attempts to kill her there, resolving her dilemma.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    Herod: My father was a judge. *chuckle* That surprises you. He used to make my mother and me watch people being hanged. One day, he said there was too much bad in this world. He took a bullet, put it in his gun, and spun the chamber. Then he took it in turns, clicking it at each of us, until he blew the back of his head off with the final click. Understand this: There is nothing on this earth that frightens me now. Nothing.
  • Frontier Doctor: Redemption has one whose main function is to examine the fallen competitors and declare "This man is dead!". This becomes a Funny Moment when Spotted Horse turns out to be Not Quite Dead. Later, he plays a vital role when he keeps the scavengers away from the Lady's body as she is Faking the Dead.
  • Gentleman Adventurer: Sergeant Cantrell, or so he claims. He's really a hired gun the townspeople hired to kill Herod.
  • Give Me a Sword: Cort shouts desperately for a second bullet after his first shot fails to kill Spotted Horse. The Blind Boy has to find the right caliber by feel from a boxful of ammo before tossing it to him.
  • Glove Slap: Herod informs Lady that she's going to duel Cort, and if she refuses she'll be killed. He then slaps her with the back of his hand (he's holding gloves in it). Lady tries to hit him back only to be stopped by a Dramatic Gun Cock from Herod's bodyguards. Herod just smirks and walks off.
  • Gold Tooth: One of the minor characters is a street vendor selling gold teeth. After Lady kills Dred, the vendor yanks out his teeth with pliers.
  • Groin Attack: Dred catches a bullet in the crotch from Lady after raping Katie. Shouldn't have pissed her off.
  • Gun Porn: One scene in particular, in the Kid's gun shop, where he shows off custom models of the Colt Single Action Army, the Remington 1875, and the Smith & Wesson Model 3. More info on the IMFDB Before the first duel of the contest, between the Kid and Gutzon, there is about a minute of lovingly composed closeups while they each load their guns.
  • Gun Twirling: In a rather nice touch, the main actors were all taught to do it themselves—which was probably easier to film, considering the massive amount of gunfights shown. Herod's minions do this with rifles quite a lot, in a way that should really eject an unused bullet every time.
  • Hat Damage: Lady, in the beginning scene. Dog Kelly shoots her hat aiming for her head, so she takes his while he's knocked out cold.
  • Heel–Faith Turn: Cort was Herod's former right-hand man, who abandoned his violent career in favor of a peaceful religious life after Herod forced him to kill a priest who nursed him and Herod back to health. Herod has Foy and Ratsy burn Cort's mission to the ground and force him to join the competition.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The Lady has a nice set of leather pants, which are shown to good effect when Cort grabs her ass during the Wall Bang Her scene.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Spotted Horse boasts that he's Immune to Bullets and has the scars to prove it. Cort takes him down with a single bullet (he's only allowed one) during their Quick Draw competition. The doctor without even approaching the body says casually, "He's dead." Cort turns to walk away...
    Spotted Horse: Spotted killed... (staggers to his feet) a bullet...!
    Herod: I thought I explained the rules to you very carefully; you have to kill the man.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Herod may be a reprehensible human being and an avowed Blood Knight, but he hates liars (his prolonged humiliation of Ace Hanlon) and cheaters (his threat of death upon anyone who tries to cheat the competition, even his own mook Ratsy).
    • The Kid is the only kill Herod expresses real regret for and despite giving a half-hearted confession that he wasn't certain if he actually was The Kid's father, his expression and quiet departure from the street after the fight (dropping his hat AND handgun AND wound dressing on the ground, no less) indicates that he did see him that way.
  • If I Do Not Return: As he's about to duel Cort, Herod quietly tells his bodyguards that even if Cort wins, they're to gun him down.
  • Implied Death Threat:
    • Herod says that if anyone cheats they'll be eliminated from the competition. Cue Dramatic Gun Cock by his mooks.
    • A retroactive one where Herod says he used to be married, but it ended when she was unfaithful to him.
    Lady: Where is she now?
    Herod: I told you. She was unfaithful.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Cort, Herod, The Kid, The Lady, and a few others. In reality, quickdraw showdowns only work when the target is standing in the same place every time: there's no time to aim, and quickdraw training is specifically for hitting the same target in the same place as quickly as possible. If the target is in a different place, a quickdraw specialist will be at a severe disadvantage.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Lady after her duel with Dred. As Dred just raped his daughter, the Saloon Owner is only too glad to hand her a free one. As he does so, it's shattered by a bullet fired by a Too Dumb to Live Dred, who's burst into the saloon after her.
  • Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: Herod tears off Cort's white collar after he kills Spotted Horse. "Welcome back, killer."
  • In the Back: Having given Ratsy a Mercy Lead of twenty seconds to get out of town, Herod takes a rifle from one of his bodyguards and calmly shoots Ratsy in the back as he is still running.
  • I Own This Town: Herod.
    Herod: If you live to see the dawn, it's because I allow it!
  • Ironic Echo: Cort calls out Herod for changing the rules of the contest, requiring a fight to the death from the second round on. Herod does it again before facing Cort, telling his mooks to gun Cort down if he's still standing. Cort responds in kind, taking out the mooks to make the final fight between Herod and Ellen fair.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: Herod is more offended at Cort telling the Lady to back out of the tournament — rather than how, immediately after that, they argue over which one of them will kill him.
  • Kinky Cuffs: Cort's hands are still chained together during his sex scene.
  • Kirk Summation: The Kid is fond of these, sprinkled with a heavy dose of bragging, before each of his fights.
    "A gunfight is in the head. Not the hands. The only reason that he's invincible is because you all think he is. Now, he might have been the best five years ago, but time catches up with every man. He's just a little bit slower than he used to be. And as for me... would you believe it? I just reached my peak."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Dred catches a bullet in the crotch from Lady after raping Katie. Shouldn't have pissed her off.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The title comes from the King James version of The Bible (where "quick" was meant in the then-current sense of "alive").
  • Lock and Load Montage: Before the first duel, Gutzon and the Kid are shown preparing their revolvers, which highlights the difference between Gutzmon's old fashioned "cap and ball" gun and Kid's modern centerfire cartridge piece.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: When the Lady wakes up in the Kid's shop with no memory of how she got there, the Kid claims he won her in a game of poker. As the last thing she remembers if him puking and passing out behind the saloon, she is pretty sure he is lying.
  • A MacGuffin Full of Money:
    • The big prize of the Quick Draw championship (that is held annually, no less) is $123,000. In 2017 dollars, this would equate to about $3 million - a ridiculous amount for a tiny non-mining town, no matter how rampant the corruption there is. Bonus points for storing this fortune in a single, prominent, unlocked chest, positioned on the table in the town's dirty, lowbrow saloon. (On that note, gun prices are also inflated: the Kid only shows his client a few rare and heavily customized pistols that cost up to $120... while a brand new factory revolver of the kind he himself uses would cost only three times as much as the "ridiculously" priced beat-up gun he offers Cort - just $15.)
    • Justified in that Herod was a major outlaw and the money most likely is his accumulated loot. When announcing the prize, the saloon keeper says it's courtesy of Mr. Herod and Wells Fargo Bank, implying that at least some of it is proceeds of a robbery. The whole point of the competition seems to be that Herod counts on winning every year, and so is willing to put both his life and his fortune on the line.
    • As for The Kid's gun store prices, perhaps he simply has to charge ridiculously high due to his father's taxes. Earlier in the movie, it is stated Herod takes 50 cents from every dollar the town earns.
  • Made of Iron: Spotted Horse, who claims that he cannot be killed by a bullet and almost lives up to the boast.
  • Make an Example of Them: Herod figures out that Cantrell is a Professional Killer sent to assassinate him. When he issues his challenge, Herod says he intends to do this.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Herod suspects that the Kid is his wife's child from her infidelity.
  • Meaningful Name: Herod is obviously evil. Cort eventually becomes the marshal of Redemption. The Lady's real name Ellen means "light".
  • Mercy Lead: Played with. When Herod discovers what Ratsy did to Cort's hand, Herod gives him twenty seconds to get out of town. Although the mook wastes five seconds whining, he takes off at full speed when it's clear Herod's not letting it go. Herod waits the full amount of time, but then calmly takes the rifle from one of his bodyguards and shoots the still-rapidly-fleeing figure dead, showing that there was no way he could have gotten away in the time given.
    Herod: TIME'S UP, RATSY!!
  • Miles Gloriosus:
    • Ace Hanlon is a moderately skilled gunslinger who specialises in trick shots. Despite his constant boasting, he doesn't run from a fight. However this is due to his fatal mistake of thinking he won't encounter a gunfighter who is quicker on the draw than him. Nor does he expect to run into the man who really killed the Terrence brothers, for which Ace has been taking credit. He quickly gets Feet of Clay when confronted by a true ace.
    • Virgil Sparks, the self-proclaimed "Pride of Texas", is another example, who doesn't get past the first round of the tournament.
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: When Lady first arrives at the saloon, the bartender tells her "Whores next door" without turning around. She quickly corrects his misapprehension by kicking the chair he is standing on out from underneath him.
  • Moe Greene Special: The shot of Herod's which kills Sgt. Cantrell takes him directly through the right eye.
  • Moment of Silence: Though it's not immediately after the death of the Kid, a full minute goes by without background music, dialogue, or cheering, before the duel between Cort and the Lady.
  • Ms. Fanservice: It wouldn't be a true Sharon Stone vehicle without being able to see her breasts.
  • Nails on a Blackboard: When the Lady is challenged to her first duel, her name is chalked up on a board with an audible screech that shows the tension she is feeling at that moment.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: John Herod. Eugene Dred is not that friendly either.
  • Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!: Horace the Bartender is taking names to enter the Quick Draw Competition.
    Kid: I think you better put me and my friend Eugene on the list. Eugene, do you know how to spell your name?
    Dred: I didn't say nothing about joining no contest.
    Kid: Do I hear clucking? Did somebody bring a chicken in here?!
    Dred: (standing up, readying a punch) I'll take you out of here right now with my bare hands!
    Kid: No, see, it's a gunfight. We both have guns. We aim, we fire, you die; you'll get the idea.
    Horace: The fighting begins tomorrow on the street, not in here.
    Dred: (beat) Put my name up there.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Lady and Herod have a very civil dinner with each other. Lady's pointing a gun at Herod under the table. He's just faking her out with the lid of a metal matchbox.
  • No Name Given: Lady. It's not until The Reveal that we discover her name, when her father calls her Ellen.
  • Nothing Personal: Most of the gunfighters just want the prize, and who they challenge is based on who they believe they can beat. For Cantrell it's just a job as he's been hired to kill Herod during the contest by the townspeople.
  • Not Just a Tournament: The gunfighting tournament is primarily a way for the Big Bad to eliminate any threats to himself and intimidate any of the locals who might try to oppose him. He knows that there is an assassin gunning for him and that the Kid is itching to take him on. The tournament is a trap for them to face him in the open where he can gun them down in a duel. It is implied that if anyone proves too much of a threat, his Mooks will gun that person down.
  • Not So Different: Both played straight and inverted. Herod is dead-set on convincing Cort that his mission to make up for his past sins is pointless because they're cut from the same cloth, and he's always going to be a killer. Inverted with The Kid, who Herod is also dead-set on convincing that they're nothing alike, possibly because he's loathe to acknowledge that he's The Kid's father.
    • Also when the Lady survives her first duel.
    Herod: You're looking at me and thinking: we have nothing in common. But we do. We're both winners.
  • The Noun and the Noun: Well, more like "The Adjective and the Adjective."
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Ace gets an enormous one.
      Herod: See, I was the one who really killed the Terrence brothers. And I doubt that a lying little chickenshit like you was even in the same state.
    • Lady is trying to ease out a hidden derringer while dining with Herod, when it drops out of her hand to the floor.
    • "Spotted a bullet!"
    • Herod himself gets one when Lady reveals she's not dead after all, and throws her father's badge at his feet, revealing who she really is.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When Lady challenges Herod, he just mutters at her to go away. "I've already been challenged." The Kid then struts out to duel Herod, showing why he's not happy. Herod quickly regains his Smug Snake evilness however.
  • One-Man Army: Herod constantly sings Cort praises on his abilities as a killer, to the point where he only gives him a single bullet per duel out of concern that he might just shoot his way out of town. Herod is proven right when Cort almost singlehandedly takes out his entire gang, allowing Lady to have a fair duel.
  • Once Is Not Enough: Happens with Spotted Horse. Up until that point, Cort been able to win all his quick draw matches with only one bullet (he's a priest and refuses to kill them) until his next opponent makes a Badass Boast about how a bullet wouldn't put him down; he's right, it takes two.
  • One Bullet Left: An Invoked Trope; Herod gives Cort only a single bullet for each competition, so he won't try shooting his way out of town.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Gutzon, the Swedish gunfighter, announces before his duel with the Kid that he does not wish to kill a child, and will only shoot to wound. The Kid, who's faster on the draw, repays him in kind; Gutzon catches a bullet in the leg and arm, but limps away alive, and is therefore one of only a few entrants to lose a duel and survive (largely because Herod begins enforcing Duel to the Death as a rule in the second round). Cort's first opponent is shot in the arm and lives, and so does Ellen's. Many of the first round battles pass by in a montage, leaving the losers' fates unclear.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Lady whose real name is Ellen, and the Kid whose name is Fee, but only mentioned once.
  • Outlaw Town: Herod runs Redemption as his own personal fiefdom and provides safe haven for outlaws; taking 50 cents on every dollar spent in the town.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: After Gutzon the Swedish Quick Draw Champion is defeated, Kid asks "Am I fast, or is Sweden just a very small place?"
  • Overzealous Underling: When the Quick Draw tournament is down to Herod and Cort, the night before the final match Herod has his follower Ratsy work Cort over, since Cort attempted to attack Herod earlier in the day. During the course of this, Ratsy breaks Cort's right hand (both because of his orders and as payback for Cort breaking his nose twice). Herod, who claims that he's wanted to have a proper gunfight with Cort even back when the two were bandits together, so they can find out who really is the Fastest Gun in the West, is pissed when he sees what Ratsy did.
  • Papa Bear: Averted; after Eugene Dred rapes his daughter, the saloon keeper reaches for Dred's gunbelt which is slung over his shoulder, a pistol in tempting reach. Dred waits...but the man just turns and staggers off. Fortunately Lady is a more than willing Mama Bear.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Ratsy is very fond of bashing Cort with the handle of his pistol.
  • Pocket Protector: The Lady keeps her father's badge on her chest, which—along with a bottle of red ink for fake blood—keeps her from dying when Cort shoots her in their duel.
  • Pre-Climax Climax: After deciding to return to Redemption to take on Herod, Lady barges into the brothel where Cort is held prisoner, drags him away from his guards at gunpoint into another room where she proceeds to rip off his clothes and Wall Bang Him.
    Cort: Why are you doing this to me?
    Lady: Because we both could be dead tomorrow.
  • Prospector: The opening scene has the Lady being shot off her horse by Dog Kelly, a crazed prospector who thinks she's after his gold (a buried outlaw cache). He just hits her hat, and the Lady chains him to a cartwheel instead of killing him. Dog drags the cartwheel all the way into town to enter the contest and challenge her.
  • A Pupil of Mine, Until He Turned to Evil: Flipped. Cort is actually a pupil of Herod until he tuned good.
  • Rape as Drama: Lady wants to back out of the tournament when the rules were changed to require a kill in order to win – until her opponent in the second round rapes the young girl who idolizes her.
  • Raised Hand of Survival: Subverted. Cort manages to shoot Spotted Horse, known for his resilience, for the second time and he falls to the ground. He raises his arm, everyone gasps, anticipating another comeback, but his arm then falls back down as he is now dead for good.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Hanlon does a trick shot where he flips off his horse and fires underneath its belly, putting a bullet through the Ace of Spades held by a little girl.
    Herod: "That's a neat trick. I heard you blew a kid's thumb off in Reno doing that."
  • Recycled In Space: A Spaghetti Western Martial-Arts Tournament.
  • Russian Roulette:
    Herod: My father was a judge. *chuckle* That surprises you. He used to make my mother and me watch people being hanged. One day, he said there was too much bad in this world. He took a bullet, put it in his gun, and spun the chamber. Then he took it in turns, clicking it at each of us, until he blew the back of his head off with the final click. Understand this: There is nothing on this earth that frightens me now. Nothing.
  • Sacrificial Lion: The Kid gets a lot of face time, but in the end he's gut-shot and left to die in the street, simply to show that Herod's so evil he would do anything to finish a gunfight including kill his own son.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: When Herod invites Lady to dinner after surviving her first duel she wears a Pimped-Out Dress. She also cleans herself up when she finally decides to challenge Herod.
  • Side Bet: Herod is shown making a bet on whether the Kid will win his first contest, but it's not revealed whether he bet on him or against him.
  • Scarf Of Asskicking: Lady's thick badass scarf certainly qualifies, and needless to say goes well with her Badass Longcoat.
  • Ship Tease: Between Lady and The Kid, the Kid makes no secret to his crush on her and she ends up kissing him at one point.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: When the Kid dies, everything becomes that much more dramatic.
  • Shoot the Rope: Done twice. Lady does it to save Cort when Herod's men try to hang him in the saloon. Later, in a flashback, Herod is about to hang Lady's father, but says he'll let him go if Lady (a little girl at the time) can shoot the rope. She hits her father instead.
  • Showdown at High Noon: And every hour there after. Subverted in that Cort hears (and tells The Lady about) the click that happens just before the clock strikes, to begin their draw.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Before Gutzon and The Kid fight, there's an extended sequence that shows them each loading their weapons. Much to vintage gun enthusiasts' surprise, Raimi has Gutzon sealing the chambers of his pistol with beeswax, something that was done as a matter of course on that model (1861 LeMat cap-and-ball) to prevent the possibility of a chain fire (one charge going off igniting the others).
    • The overall selection of firearms is also quite interesting and in some sense realistic. Even though almost everything in the film is inflated and fairy-tale-Wild-West, many of the shooters actually use revolvers that were cheaply converted from cap to cartridge - a stark reality of the (supposed) timeframe. These earlier cap revolvers had to be loaded chamber by chamber with powder, then wad, then bullet, then pressed with a rod, then sealed with wax, then primed with little percussion caps - and they were the go-to weapons... until brass cartridge revolvers made them obsolete almost overnight. So the Kid in the film uses an expensive (about $15 before engraving) Colt SAA cartridge revolver that he loads with ammo familiar to us, but many others use former cap "FrankenGuns" that were converted to load familiar brass cartridges by the manufacturer or even local tinkerers. In the case of Cort's gun, you can plainly see the empty space where a crudely removed loading lever once was (this lever was used to press the round bullet into the chamber and compress the powder and wad inside).
    • Audiences at the time scoffed a bit at Sgt. Cantrell because he was a black gunslinger, but the filmmakers clearly showed their work when creating the character; he's established to be a former Buffalo Soldier, an all-black cavalry founded after the Civil War. Also, as many as a quarter of actual gunslingers on the frontier were black since they encountered less racism than in the Deep South and almost always were paid equal wages to white people even if they did.
  • Sighted Guns Are Low-Tech: Lots of shooting from the hip, especially from Cort. Cantrell uses a "Bridgeport Rig" to hold his gun on his belt without a holster, allowing him to swivel it up and fire without drawing.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: Herod doesn't organize the annual duel tournament for fun (a statement contradicted by his immense pleasure watching opponents die), but even he appreciates the town has gone to hell since he took over, and its people will kill you for your bootlaces. He participates so he can face his enemies one-on-one, without fear of them shooting him in the back when he's vulnerable or off-guard.
  • Slower Than A Speeding Bullet: Ratsy tries to run away from Herod and ends up getting shot in the back. Granted, Herod had just told him to get out of town...
  • Smooch of Victory: The Lady is so glad to live through her first duel she kisses the Kid, whose affections she's rejected before then.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: The Kid and Herod engage in one.
    Herod: The reverend here needs a gun.
    The Kid: There's plenty of other places in town to buy a gun.
    Herod: Nowhere as cheap.
    The Kid: I wouldn't know a place that's cheap enough for you.
    Herod: You know, your mouth gets faster every day. Pity your hands are so slow.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Lady is the only girl competing in the contest.
  • Spaghetti Western: Made by Americans, yes. But its corrupt, wind-swept and decaying wasteland punctuated with a mournful Ennio Morricone inspired soundtrack hits the genre's nail right on the head.
  • Start of Darkness: Herod's father, although a respectable authority figure, was a bit of a nutcase. Convinced there was too much evil in the world that had to be purged, he would regularly force his family to view hangings, desensitizing Herod to death. It got to the stage where he played a sick game of Russian Roulette with Herod and his mother, killing himself.
  • Tae Kwon Door: After Ratsy shoves Cort to the floor, Cort kicks the door of the gun shop so it hits Ratsy in his face and breaks his nose.
  • Teach Him Anger: Herod has his mooks burn down the Mission where Cort works, so he'll be angry enough to want to kill him. Cort refuses to play along. Herod puts him in the competition anyway, confident that Cort's nature will reassert itself when his life is in danger. Herod's constant Kick the Dog moments are equally effective in the long run.
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Narrowly averted when Spotted Horse, who boasts that he "cannot be killed by a bullet," is shot in the forehead by Cort; he briefly raises his gun arm in the air before he finally expires.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Eugene Dred. After losing a gunfight to the lady culminating in her sparing his life, he staggers back into the Saloon to ambush her. He fires, narrowly misses, and is gunned down in self defence.
    • To a lesser degree, "Ace" Hanlon. He's a trick shooter with outlandish claims of being the fastest gunman ever, but he doesn't quit while he's ahead. He ends up getting challenged and killed by the real deal in the first round of the tournament.
  • Torso with a View: During the climax, Herod doesn't think he's been shot until he sees the hole in his shadow.
  • Undertaker: The town has an undertaker who can tell the height of newcomers just by looking at them. While they're on horseback.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Herod forced his then-protege Cort to kill a priest who nursed them back to health. It is implied that this is what triggered Cort's Heel–Faith Turn.
  • Unorthodox Holstering: As the film centres around a quick draw competition, a variety of different methods of holstering are shown. Sergeant Cantrell goes for a pistol mounted on a swivel on his gunbelt; allowing him to shoot from the hip without having to draw his gun.
  • Use Your Head: Cort uses a backward headbutt to break Ratsy's nose for the second time.
  • Vertigo Effect: A barrage of truly dizzying ones lead into The Kid's duel with Herod.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: The Kid to Herod, because Herod suspects him of being the bastard son of his unfaithful wife. Cort also reveals that Herod recruited him as a kid and he wanted to be just like him; until Herod forced him to cross a Moral Event Horizon by killing a priest who nursed them back to health.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child:
    • Cort plays this straight when a mob of children gang up on him and start beating him with planks, but the Lady subverts this and sends them all running to their dad.
    • Gutzon tells the Kid he will only wound him. The Kid replies, "You're a kind man" and obliges him by doing the same.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: The Lady wakes up on a bed in the Kid's gun shop and the Kid says he won her in a poker game. The Lady isn't fooled, saying the last thing she remembers is the Kid passing out from too much booze.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Justified; Lady has never killed anyone before, and is afraid of Herod. This makes her balk at shooting him on several occasions. It turns out she has killed someone — her own father, further explaining her reluctance.


Example of: