Dead for a Dollar Parent Guide
It's a perverse achievement to take an intriguing plot idea and talented cast and come up with such a dull film.
Parent Movie Review
Good Westerns come in two flavors: smart fun or dumb fun. A bad Western like Dead for a Dollar comes in the unwanted third option: no fun.
The movie starts out promisingly enough. Bounty hunter Max Borlund (Christoph Waltz) has been hired by businessman Martin Kidd (Hamish Linklater) to rescue his wife, Rachel (Rachel Brosnahan), who has apparently been kidnapped and taken to Mexico where she’s being held for ransom. With an unofficial military escort in the person of Sergeant Poe (Warren Burke), Borlund heads off to the Mexican desert. There he will cross paths with Joe Crebbins (Willem Dafoe), a professional gambler who owes him an ill turn, and a Mexican crime lord named Tiberio Vargas (Benjamin Bratt). Shifting loyalties, surprising plot twists, and sinister conspiracies all culminate in the expected finale – a bloody shoot-out.
This should be a better film than it is, and its failures must laid at the feet of director Walter Hill, who is a veteran filmmaker and should know better. The cast is superb and any director who can’t create pulse-pounding tension and chemistry with Willem Defoe, Christoph Waltz, and Rachel Brosnahan needs to rethink his approach. The actors sound like they have been coached to be as dull as possible, with lines repeated as if by rote. The pacing is also slow, with the story dragging along as if it has overheated in the desert sun and is covering the last agonizing bit of ground before the nearest source of water.
These failures are all the more frustrating because Dead for a Dollar has an interesting tale to tell. This isn’t just another Western about gold or revenge or land. It deals with the core issue of freedom and how basic liberty was denied to women and people of color in late 19th century America. Neither Rachel Kidd nor her Black “abductor”, Elijah Jones (Brandon Scott) are willing to tamely accept the fates to which their society subjects them. Determined to reclaim their dignity and chart their own futures, the two come up with a plan. Their simmering rage and desperation provide the only real emotion in the entire film and this aspect of the storyline deserves more attention than it gets. Heaven knows, the rest of the film is boring enough that any real emotion is welcome.
If you’re not deterred by the movie’s dullness, you will want to consider the negative content. There is a surprising amount of nudity, including male genitalia in a sexual context. There are a few scenes of alcohol consumption and over three dozen curse words but the real kicker here is the violence. Like most Westerns, this movie is riddled with gunfire. There are the usual set piece shoot-‘em-up scenes and also acts of cold blooded murder. The camera doesn’t shy away from the carnage, with blood and bullet wounds clearly visible. Your movie dollars buy a whole lot of death in this film and that may feel like more of a bargain than you want.Directed by Walter Hill. Starring Willem Dafoe, Rachel Brosnahan, Hamish Linklater. Running time: 114 minutes. Theatrical release September 30, 2022. Updated September 29, 2022
Dead for a Dollar
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dead for a Dollar rated R? Dead for a Dollar is rated R by the MPAA for violence, some sexual content/graphic nudity and language.
Violence: There are frequent graphic scenes of gun violence and death, including injuries and blood. A woman is abducted. A woman hits a man who is prevented from hitting her back. Men attack each other with bullwhips. Men are murdered in cold blood. A character puts a gun to their head but doesn’t pull the trigger.
Sexual Content: There is a brief scene of sexual activity seen from behind. When the couple are interrupted there is full frontal male nudity including genitalia and a woman is seen with her arms across her breasts but no visible genitals. Adultery is a plot point. A naked woman is briefly seen from behind while asleep; her breasts are visible when she wakes up. A woman is seen from the shoulders up in the bathtub.
Profanity: The film features frequent profanity, including three sexual expletives and anatomical terms, six scatological curses, a dozen terms of deity, 20 minor profanities, and crude terms for women and male genitals.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There are frequent scenes of adults drinking alcohol.
Page last updated September 29, 2022
Dead for a Dollar Parents' Guide
Why does Martin hire Max? Why does Rachel make the choices she makes? What other options does she have in her society? Why does Max make the choices he does?
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