At the start of the summer I made the quest to conquer the three seasons of HBO’s Deadwood. It had been recommended to me by numerous people and therefore I took the plunge. Having finished the show, which I have my own thoughts on, it was time to return to Deadwood for a cinematic vignette.
Coming out 13 years after the show’s run ended, I struggle to call Deadwood: The Movie a full-fledged story for one main reason. The plot is secondary, much like in the TV show during its three seasons. Creator David Milch created Deadwood in 2004 and created a series of characters that immediately engrossed the audience. The connection between the audience and the personas was most developed by just phenomenal dialogue and acting. For those who have seen the show and/or movie, there is no other way to speak the work “cocksucker” than that of Mr. Al Swearengen.
Timothy Olyphant and Ian McShane star as the two most iconic characters, Seth Bullock and the aforementioned Swearengen. They lead a fully returning cast in this attempt to recapture and give closure to all fans of Deadwood.
Taking place 10 years after the series finale of the TV show in 2006, the residents of Deadwood are looking to celebrate Dakota’s statehood in 1889. Their happiness is quickly dispersed when Senator George Hearst returns to the town he up heaved and cast a shadow over for years.
Following the necessary exposition given, Deadwood: The Movie begins rolling with a pregnant Trixie, played by Paula Malcomson, taking to her porch and hurling insults at Mr. Hearst. The actions that took place at the end of the television series are resurfaced and the tensions between the characters are strung tight again. Things are kicked into high gear and Charlie Utter, played by Dayton Callie, refuses to sell his land to Mr. Hearst. The boiling pot was on simmer but now someone’s loaded in too much water and cranked the propane all the way up.
As Deadwood: The Movie unfolds, each major character is given a chance to have one final sendoff. This is a film that’s meant to act as a last chapter in a book, wrapping up all the loose ends and keying fans on what is to happen in the times to follow.
The relationship between Joanie Stubbs and Calamity Jane is relit, along with other romantic entanglements. Trixie, who really came on strong in season three and still holds the pitchfork for most improved throughout the franchise, matures with Sol Star. The tension between Bullock and Alma Garret is brought back forward and handled delicately and with care.
With the positive character portrayals, there are some that fail to deliver. I with the Doc Cochran, played by Brad Dourif, had more a part in Deadwood: The Movie. Same goes for Cy Tolliver, played by Powers Booth. Those two had major parts in the television show but seemed to put on the back burner in this epilogue tale.
The cream of the crop however is still Mr. Al Swearengen. Even with his character belittled by illness and unable to act as forcefully physical as before, Ian McShane makes the character leap off the screen. Even with dialogue that isn’t quite up to snuff with what was in the television series, McShane is able to make it all work in a convincing way. His final moments with Trixie is the highlight of the Deadwood: The Movie and there is still NOBODY who can swear with the same charisma he has. For my money, McShane and Malcomson are the best two in the movie.
Olyphant’s depiction of Bullock is a bit more deranged in the movie compared to the TV show and that’s with good reason. The evil which he had thought he’d vanquished with the help of Swearengen 10 years prior has returned and with very personally afflicting consequences. In Bullock’s final clash with Hearst, he is forced into a very difficult situation of having to make a choice. The one he makes is the proper one for anyone who was a fan of the television series and his character arc.
Overall, Deadwood: The Movie is an adequate conclusion to the television series finale which left numerous fans, including myself, unsatisfied. With that being said, not all things are perfect. Some of the dialogue is not as fleshed out as in the show and some moments of satisfaction do seem a bit rushed. The ending to the movie itself may not sit well with people who need a firm slam the cover ending, but for fans of the show, it fits the vibe.
Deadwood, whether it be the TV show or movie, is about the characters. If you can get behind that, then you’ll be able to enjoy Deadwood: The Movie.
Stanko Rating: B