Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Slowest Gun in the West (Part 1)

The Quick and the Undead
Dir. Gerald Nott
The Quick and the Undead is a clever premise undone by a woefully subpar cast. Riding the recent wave of zombie Westerns, the film mashes together the familiar tropes of zombie films, post apocalyptic road movies, and Italian horse operas. It’s just a shame the zombies emote more than the movie’s stars.
Nearly a century after a viral outbreak has turned most of the American population into shuffling brain chompers, bounty hunters like protagonist Ryn Baskin roam the vacant countryside dressed like punk rock cowboys putting down the undead for a paycheck. Baskin goes chumming through vacant towns with a bucket of offal, waiting for the zombies to pounce on the bait.
A former colleague betrays Baskin to a rival bounty hunter, Blythe, and his crew of miscreants, who steal his bounty and leave him for dead, setting off the film’s tale of revenge. It’s just a shame that none of leads are the least bit engaging. Clint Glenn, our erstwhile hero, generally growls around a cigar, doing his worst Clint Eastwood impersonation while Parrish Randall, as Blythe, pretends he’s Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. All it does is remind you that you could be watching much better movies.

Zombology: While The Quick and the Undead offers up fairly familiar fare – a viral outbreak, reanimated corpses, lots of cannibalism – it cleverly fills in some overlooked details even if it doesn't employ them for any great narrative purpose. For example, the film sidesteps the acrimonious fast versus slow zombies debate that has rent the zombie community for decades by offering grades of zombies. The most recently reanimated still have some zip to their step, lunging and attacking in brief bursts of speed. The older, more putrid corpses tend to shuffle a little more slowly. Less cleverly, the film also features the protagonist sucking the infection out of his arm after he gets bit, spitting out the virus as though it were snake venom. I’m no biochemist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how viruses work.

A post-apocalyptic zombie Western could have been an entertaining romp, but The Quick and the Undead is fatally hobbled by awful writing, amateurish acting and general inconsistency. Baskin lays out his rules of zombie survival, such as always staying outside so you have an avenue of escape, but breaks just about every rule without explanation or consequence. This disappointing mish-mash of good ideas being poorly executed earns a 67 on the Hell of the Living Dead scale of rotten films.

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