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Of any genre, the Western has had the most sporadic of success, it’s rise and fall over the many decades a testament to the fidgety pleasures of the common theater audience. With Hickock, we return once again to the Old West in a low budget action comedy that is more than what it should be, a rousing, sometimes funny adventure that may not have the luster of a big budget counterpart, but is nonetheless a good time.
Based loosely on very real events, we follow Wild Bill Hickock (Luke Hemsworth), a Civil War veteran who rides one day into the dusty town of Abilene, crowded with cowboys off the cattle drive, looking for game and girls and in need of some law. When Mayor George Knox (Kris Kristofferson) sees potential in the gunslinger, he hires him to be Marshal and Hickock sets about cleaning up the town, placing a ban on firearms inside city limits. This doesn’t sit well many, including Phil Poe (Trace Adkins), a corrupt saloon keeper who thinks Hickock is driving business away and upsetting the real balance of power.
Directed Timothy Woodward Jr., Hickok is a pretty standard cowboy gunfighter story with plenty that will be familiar to fans of the genre, from shootouts to callgirls to everything in-between, though it’s all done with plenty of authenticity. Woodward Jr. creates some solid moments even if he draws from a shallow well, the tight script (by Michael Lanahan), full of old standards but sharply-written and even more so performed. Hemsworth, eldest of the famous brothers, is a good fit as the titular hero and while the film itself lacks some much-needed momentum, he gives it a good turn.
Adding to the already good cast is Bruce Dern, who, along with Kristofferson, provide a lot of grit, the two helping to keep a weathered look about the story though there’s only so much they can do as the movie can’t quite keep things as lively as story invites. Dialogue heavy, there’s not much action, though there’s are some fun standoffs in a story that is fairly predictable.
Hemsworth skips the look most commonly associated with the famous gunslinger, the long hair shaved tight and the twirly mustache all but gone, and it’s hard to get a sense that any of it is really all that accurate with a few contrived moments. Much will feels familiar, from the wily doctor to the righteous mayor to the troublesome saloon keep, there’s nothing here that will seem all that fresh, even if the performances ring true. Still, a Hickok is pretty fun genre film, a worthwhile experience as easy to get through as a dime store novel.
Movie description: Hickok is a 2017 Western about legendary lawman and gunslinger, Wild Bill Hickok, who is tasked with taming the wildest cow-town in the west.
Director(s): Timothy Woodward Jr.
Actor(s): Luke Hemsworth, Trace Adkins, Kris Kristofferson