Wild Bill Hickok was one of the real American heroes of his time. The problem with a drama of this nature is that the writers sometimes mix up fact and fiction. Probably to make the story more dramatic.WARNING - In order to review this film and discuss its meaning, I have to reveal the ending. So . . . if you don't want to know what happens in the end, please don't read this until after you have seen the film.
Donít expect a biography of Wild Bill or a documentary. Some of the things that happened in the movie did not happen in history.
In my reading about Wild Bill I do not remember a character named Charley Prince. Billís assassination set-up was fiction as well, but he really was assassinated. And Calamity Jane did not look like Ellen Barkin.
There was a gunfight over a watch, and Bill did accidentally kill his deputy. And of course there are many other true incidents in the film.
The film as a dramatic piece was excellent. Some of the more memorable scenes are the gunfight in the beginning, the confrontation with the Native American, Jane whipping the man, and the shooting of the old man in the wheel chair. (I donít believe that the wheel chair incident happened, but the comments that people trusted Billís marksmanship was a true statement.)
This is a work of fiction which attempts to give us the feel of Wild Billís time and his life. Before writing this review I watched the film for the fourth time in as many years. On the last viewing I saw so much in the film that I had missed. Just before I saw the film this last time, I had been doing some study about real western gunman and gun fighters. That knowledge made this film so much better for me. Try it.
The dramatic licenses did not bother me as the writer and director captured the flavor of the period. And that is what makes me recommend this film to Old West buffs.
One could not fault Jeff Bridges. He was Wild Bill. (Compare Jeff Bridges as Wild Bill to real photos of Hickok and you will see what I mean.)
Ellen Barkin was great as Calamity Jane. I thought she slightly exaggerated her performance when she invited everyone in for a drink. Even the real Jane (because of the times) would have been a tiny bit less loud.
David Arquette played an excellent weasel.
The cinematography was fantastic and contributed to the feel of the film.Buy this film, and immerse yourself in the Old West.