Matthew Lickona noon, April 29
Last Man Standing
Walter Hill's remake and resettlement of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, and so Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars as well, in a Texas border town during Prohibition. (The warring factions have now metamorphosed into Irish and Italian bootlegging mobs, and the transient Man-with-No-Name christens himself with the classic alias of "John Smith.") As laid out by Kurosawa, the story, or that part of it that depends on the clear superiority of the mercenary hero in combat, becomes less likely when you replace samurai swords with Wild West six-shooters (Fistful) and still unlikelier when you add automatic pistols and tommy guns (Last Man). Weapons like these are great levellers. Still, Hill is far more concerned than Leone was with plausibility. Letting the shell casings fall where they may, he stands as fast as always against the superhero cartoonishness of the one-man-army fantasies of Seagal, Schwarzenegger, van Damme. One might extend that list to include, in his Die Hard mode, the present star, Bruce Willis, here thoroughly de-cutesified. Hill is something of an action-film traditionalist, a true die-hard, a throwback, even a stick-in-the-mud (bless his stony heart) in his unflagging devotion to and reverence for the old forms. Man standing fast. But although he never puts a foot wrong, neither does he here venture off the trodden path. And anyone conversant with the Kurosawa original (or the Leone copy) will be highly susceptible to fits of impatience and boredom. Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, Christopher Walken, David Patrick Kelly, Karina Lombard, Ken Jenkins. 1996.