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The traditional, operatic western was a staple of early
These many subgenres are somewhat ambiguous and often the lines are blurred as to which group a film actually falls, but for the purpose of this compilation, we will look at those films not falling into the classical category. In honor of the release of The Warrior’s Way, a martial arts/old west hybrid, Player Affinity will take a look at ten of the most daring, unique and divergent revisionist westerns of the last twenty years.
10. Back to the Future Part III
The most maligned of the beloved trilogy starring the spunky time-travelling kid Marty McFly, this third instalment sends Michael J. Fox’s beloved character and the eccentric “Doc” Brown back to the old west. To save Doc who is living a happy life in 1885, Marty must confront the ruthless Buford “Mad Dog” Tannen who harbours some ill will towards the brilliant scientist, which leads to the inevitable showdown at high noon. About as light-hearted a western as you’ve likely to find, “Part III” pokes at its roots with a wink and a nod while throwing modern elements quite literally back in time.
9. The Quick and the Dead
A heavily flawed but infinitely stylish entry, Sam Raimi’s Spaghetti Western homage finds a lady gunslinger riding into the aptly named town of
Landing only in the number eight spot only for its close-to-the-nose resemblance to the classic western style, Unforgiven reinvigorated the entire genre in 1992 and nabbed a best picture Oscar for Clint Eastwood; an idol of the showdown, spur jangling persuasion. Though boasting traditional veins, Unforgiven easily slips into the revisionist sub-genre with its anti-heroism, themes of corruption and barely a hint of melodramatic romance. “Deserve got’s nothing to do with it”, growls Eastwood’s Bill Munny in the film. But in the case of this list it more than deserves some recognition.
Certainly more towards the “weird west” camp, these two Jackie Chan/Owen Wilson action comedies are both a clash of East and West as well as a sometimes satirical look at its converging genres. “Noon” is certainly more a western than “Knights” if in setting only, and what makes this the unique entry it is, is certainly the physical comedy and martial arts skills of Chan. He works well with the deadpan humour of
6. From Dusk ‘Till Dawn
Though I have a bone to pick with this film, so to speak, in that its half-and-half horror/men-on-the-run approach robs us of what I truly believe could have been an amazing film if the first half had continued, From Dusk ‘Till Dawn is a Western through and through and most certainly not the kind Sergio Leone had in mind. This is a root ‘em toot ‘em gory, wildly divergent western (with vampires) that explores themes present in a great number of Robert Rodriguez’s films as well as in that of this frequent collaborator and co-director Quentin Tarantino. The director has expressed in the past his appreciation for the genre, and his take on it is a welcome change of pace from the normal available product.
5. The Proposition
4. No Country for Old Men
The Coen brothers have always been suckers for Westerns, but only a few of their films don’t embrace or echo some element of the genre. No Country for Old Men is one of the purest instances of a revisionist, contemporary Western. From its
3. The Good, the Bad, the Weird
Easily the most gleefully embracive of its divergent roots, this Korean export sets its take on the Western in turn-of-the-century
2. El Mariachi/Desperado/Once Upon a Time in
I don’t want to seem like a cheat for placing the same director on this list more than once, but you’ve got to hand it to Robert Rodriguez, the man deserves his place. With even the titles screaming “Western,” his unofficial trilogy features Mexican standoffs and duels and right down to the setting, Rodriguez blends those ideas with his usual stylish, over-the-top action tropes which have become his mantra. There is more than a hint of Leone’s “Dollars” trilogy here, toss in some sultry female heroines in the form of Selma Hayek and Eva Mendes and you have a pulp Western series for the modern era.
For the legions of still-pissed Firefly fans wanting anyone’s head who as much looks the wrong way at Joss Whedon’s prematurely cancelled space saga, it is easy to see and to overlook the heaps of Western themes present in the original series and its movie spinoff, Serenity. Any space cowboy who still draws from the hip and talks in broken old-timey English is a good ol’ fashion cowpoke in my book, and Nathan Fillion’s Caption Malcolm Reynolds sells every inch of it. Truly, the only difference from this film and a classic Western is the time period. Were you to switch outer space for a dusty