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13 years ago, the tv series Deadwood ended its third season on a quiet, clumsy anti-climax. The evil mining tycoon George Hearst and his army of Pinkerton agents stood on one side, amicable psychopath Al Swearengen and the Deadwood residents stood on the other. Then they come to a financial arrangement and everyone walks off, but with the understanding that none of this was over. The show was summarily cancelled and that served as our resolution. Finally, with the release of Deadwood: the Film, we can have some proper closure.
The movie takes place roughly ten years after the series left off. Deadwood has evolved into a modern town, with its own railway and (single) telephone. Almost the entire cast is back, all considerably older. Ian Mc Shane's Swearengen looks by far the most haggered. As the show starts, we are informed his liver is failing. Worse for his health still is the re-emergence of George Hearst, who has returned as a representative of the government, intent on introducing a full phone network to the town. The old wounds re-open on his arrival, Swearengen does his best to stop the town from charging into a bloodbath, but he isn't really sure how long he can prevent it.
Deadwood was one of a long line of "Peak TV" shows that all did the same basic thing: Present a violent subculture lead by a homicidal but well meaning patriarchal figure; think Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Boss, and Boardwalk Empire. In hindsight perhaps we were a bit naive to enjoy these narratives of evil, wealthy, ruling men so much, but the Deadwood Movie proves that even a decade on we can still get behind them. And not just the rulers either; every character in Deadwood is a foulmouthed, alcoholic jerk who is always seconds away from a brawl. The movie grants each of the series' many, many characters a moment in the limelight, and whilst not everyone gets as much attention as they should, its nice that some of the show's under-utilised reserve characters, especially Calamity Jane, play an important role.
As a send off, its satisfying. As a story for new people, it is rubbish. Just don't bother watching it if you aren't already familiar with the TV series. Whilst the movie kindly includes flashbacks to the show to reestablish people's relationships, it's not going to be anywhere near enough to give newcomers an understanding or a reason to care about these folk.
As a character driven show, the plot - for what little there is - does wrap itself up a little too easily. Hearst marches into town with only a couple of men, and it doesn't feel like it should be that hard to deal with him. By the conclusion of the movie, it evidently isn't. Nevertheless, it was nice to see that showdown from the season 3 finale, and the show overall, reach a more fitting end.
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