Movie Review: "Once Upon a Time in Deadwood" (2019)
Everybody’s favorite Charles Bronson doppelgänger is back with a gun in his hand. He plays another character without a name here to ensure the bad guy pays the price for his deeds (this time it’s The Colonel as opposed to The Stranger). This time around it’s a Western set in and around the town of Deadwood, South Dakota in the 1880’s. You know what this all means- lots of people are gonna get shot!
The Colonel (Robert Kovacs, now formally billed as Robert Bronzi; Death Kiss) is a Civil War hero turned vigilante gun for hire. He roams the Wild West, righting wrongs and filling scumbags full of hot lead. He’s approached by a busty, stunning young woman named Ursula (Karin Brauns; The Wishing Forest) with a heartbreaking story of her kidnapped sister, Abigale (Lauren Compton; Death House) and a “house girl”. She also brings him poisoned beans in a plot to force his hand in helping her; telling him after he fills his belly that her sister is the only one who has the antidote. Realizing the pickle that he’s in, The Colonel travels with her to Deadwood to rescue her sister from the den of sin that is the Gem Saloon, which is run by the evil Al Swearengen (Michael Pare; Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich).
Robert Bronzi is still a joy to watch and reliable as ever. His accent is still something of a distraction, especially in a Western, but he sounds more natural this time around. His physical choreography and presence are on point, and it remains downright eerie every time you see him. Charles Bronson is best remembered for the Death Wish series and (of course) the Sergio Leone classic, Once Upon a Time in the West. While Once Upon a Time in Deadwood is no rehash by any means, it is a meaningful homage to an admittedly far superior hallmark of the Western genre.
The issue here isn’t Bronzi. His performance, even where it falters (those convulsions!), is still up to snuff. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, seem to have a difficult time with rather wooden dialogue that sounds oddly formal and force-fed for what you’d hope would be a believable shoot ‘em up. Karin Brauns’ accent is almost too much to handle; it breaks the suspension of disbelief every time she opens her mouth. Additionally, you almost feel bad for Michael Pare (a man not without real talent) for having to step into the shoes of a famous, real-life Wild West villain who’s already been portrayed PERFECTLY by acting demigod Ian McShane in HBO’s Deadwood. He seems almost intimidated by the role and is occasionally cringe-inducing. There’s no pretty way to dress up that statement.
Still, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood is by no means a total waste of time. The natural scenery and cinematography of the locations is downright excellent, even breathtaking once or twice (like the shot of The Colonel looking meditatively out at the lake). The gun play is competent and adequately violent, even if Bronzi seems to be much less accurate this time around. While the blood isn’t as abundant as in Death Kiss, there’s still plenty of claret flowing throughout the running time of 85 minutes. Kudos as well for the emotional twist at the end; director Rene Perez (re-teaming with Bronzi) didn’t abandon the story, and I appreciate that.
In my review of Death Kiss, I said I was more than willing “more than willing to look past the shortcomings for that kind of a good time”. Once Upon a Time in Deadwood may not be quite the good time its spiritual Perez/Bronzi predecessor is, but the Western genre can be a tricky one to nail down. You’ll still have a good time with its spaghetti stylings and Robert Bronzi’s built in, God-given nostalgia factor.
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood shoots onto streaming video on October 1st
2.5 out of 5.0 stars