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Wednesday Western: 'Dead for a Dollar' (2022)
Lewis Jacobs/Quiver Distribution

Wednesday Western: 'Dead for a Dollar' (2022)

Walter Hill and his skilled, enthusiastic cast bring a playful professionalism to this tale of a bounty hunter and his quarry.

Watching a contemporary Western is a bit like discovering an ancient Mayan temple inside a centuries-old cathedral under the glass floor of an Apple store.

It’s why so many of the old legends emerge from dust or shadow. There’s a ghostliness at play, in contrast to the eternal solidity of the landscapes.

In our recent interview, Prof. Andrew Patrick Nelson picked the charming 2022 film "Dead for a Dollar" as one of the four Westerns he would hand to someone who is new to the genre.

At the helm is veteran director Walter Hill, whose long filmography includes classics such as "The Warriors" and "48 hours."

He's aided here by a stellar cast. Willem Dafoe makes the most of his Sergio Leone-worthy lines as a recently released outlaw with vengeance on his mind. Rachel Brosnahan brings welcome nuance to what could easily have been a stock anachronistic "liberated woman" character.

Fans of Christoph Waltz's work for Quentin Tarantino will enjoy watching the rather different energy he brings as Max Borlund, the film's leading man. His character must navigate a series of fascinatingly tricky moral dilemmas that leave the viewer of the edge of his seat.

As one character says, “Mr. Borlund is a man of surprises.”

He's also a throwback to what a wistful Tony Soprano called "the strong, silent type." A man who “wasn’t in touch with his feelings — he just did what he had to do.”

Waltz plays this with a touch of sly humor. Those around him can't stop talking. They want him to know their stories. They want to know his story.

Something about Borlund makes those who meet him want to spill their guts, displaying all of their innermost truths and sins and insecurities. When they finally take a breath from all their poetic gabbing, his response is a polite, hilariously deadpan “Will that be all?”

This flamboyant monologuing is one of a few creative risks "Dead for a Dollar" takes. They generally pay off. A fight scene at the movie's midpoint comes to mind — the less said about it, the better.

"Dead for a Dollar" offers the comforts of a well-made, traditional shoot-'em-up with a dash of unsettling humor. Take the words of reassurance offered to Borlund as he prepares for a showdown:

“You got nothing to worry about: If he kills you, I’ll kill him.”

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Kevin Ryan

Kevin Ryan

Staff Writer

Kevin Ryan is a staff writer for Blaze News. He is an award-winning writer focusing on long-form literary nonfiction and investigative reporting.
@The_Kevin_Ryan →