Typically, I try to steer clear of the western genre, it’s just a genre I don’t mesh with as doing one right that hasn’t been done a zillion times prior is hard and it relies on tropes. Certainly there are exceptions to the rule, and when you see its directed by Walter Hill and it has the cast it packs, there is at least a level on intrigue. However, in the case of Dead for a Dollar, it certainly misses the mark. It is a typical western, nothing new, nothing exciting, nothing even adventurous. It is a very safe western, and that’s not a bad thing it just doesn’t blow anyone away in a standoff.
The film focuses on Rachel, played by Rachel Brosnahan, as she gets ‘kidnapped’ and helf for ransom by Elijah Jones played by Brandon Scott. Her husband played by Hamish Linklater hires a bounty hunter by the name of Max Borlund played by Christoph Waltz to retrieve his wife. However, when Max’s old nemesis, Joe Cribbens played by Willem Dafoe joins forces with another wicked outlaw, Tibero Vargas played by Benjamin Bratt an old score gets reignited and these two gun slingers are bound to cross paths and leave a path of gore behind them.
Now before we dive into the performances, it is important to look at the script provided by Matt Harris. He is a rather fresh talent to when it comes to feature writing, and Dead for a Dollar certainly highlights how green this feature writer truly is. There is not a lot to hold onto within the film, as it quite literally is all over the place and doesn’t really know what it wants to do or say. If it cut out a good twenty to thirty minutes, and tightened a few things up, maybe the script would feel more fleshed out and polished, but ultimately the story telling is the ultimate downfall of Dead for a Dollar.
The saving grace for Dead for a Dollar comes from the all star cast who, mostly, give remarkable performances that cannot be contained by this otherwise dull feature. Willem Dafoe is as unhinged as he can be, unless playing the Goblin, and delivers a remarkable performance. While Brosnahan delivers a Mrs. Maisel esque performance of grit and power to her character giving the traditional role women have in Westerns much more umph and satisfaction. Christoph Waltz on the other hand unfortunately calls it in to an extent and his performances feels very safe and uninspired. However the rest of the supporting cast certainly makes up for it, along with Dafoe and Brosnahan stealing the show, there is more than enough acting chops to carry the film from mildly mundane to at least entertaining and mundane.