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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.88%
Worth A Look: 5.88%
Just Average: 5.88%
Pretty Crappy: 28.24%

5 reviews, 55 user ratings

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Heaven's Gate
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Don't Believe the Hype-This Movie is a Masterpiece"
5 stars

A quarter-century after its original failed release, which helped bring an end to United Artists (the studio originally formed by Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith), the career of director Michael Cimino and, some claim, the director-as-star mentality that dominated Hollywood in the 1970's (coincidentally, the last truly great period of American filmmaking), the infamous “Heaven’s Gate” is finally appearing in Chicago in its original full-length version for an extended run at the Gene Siskel Film Center. Seen today, relatively divorced from all of the publicity surrounding its bloated budget (a then-scandalous $40 million) and disastrous reception, is a crazily ambitious epic that is about a hundred times better than its reputation would suggest.

The film stars Kris Kristofferson as a Harvard graduate (an event illustrated during an extended 20-minute prologue that was, somewhat obviously, filmed at Oxford instead of Harvard) who turns his back on a life of privilege to serve as the sheriff of a small Wyoming town largely populated by immigrants who have been working the land for years in order to own it outright to build homes for themselves. The local cattle ranchers, led by evil Sam Waterston, aren’t too thrilled with what this could mean for their plans to own the land for themselves and hire a band of “deputies” (i.e. mercenaries) to hunt and kill 150 of the immigrants. Also caught up in the events, which culminate in a full-scale battle between the mercenaries and the immigrants (in which the cavalry appears to save the day in the nick of time, though it wouldn’t be fair to tell who they save), is conflicted mercenary Christopher Walken (in a fine performance) and Isabelle Huppert as the frontier madam that they both love.

Yes, there are some considerable flaws–the 219-minute running time is a bit excessive, the soundtrack is so overwhelmed with chaotic ambience that it is sometimes impossible to hear any of the dialogue and it concludes with a ludicrous epilogue that should have been scrapped–and the bleak and brutal tone of the story will probably put off a lot of viewers. (The film is, at its heart, essentially a four-hour quasi-Marxist Western in which the cavalry appears in the nick of time to rescue the bad guys)–but there are so many great things on display here that I am willing to overlook them. The performances, with the exception of Waterston’s turn as the Snidely Whiplash-inspired chief villain, are strong and thoughtful (other actors popping up here include Jeff Bridges, John Hurt, Brad Dourif and a shockingly young Mickey Rourke), everything is beautifully photographed by legendary cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and the final battle sequence, while entirely a figment of Ciminio’s imagination, is a masterpiece of controlled chaos that fully captures the frenzied insanity of battle without ever falling into confusion itself.

For all of its mistakes, “Heaven’s Gate” is, in the end, a strange kind of masterpiece that I, for one, would cheerfully rank over nearly every film that has taken home the Best Picture Oscar in the past 25 years.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1228&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/28/05 23:38:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/11/16 Bradley Hayman The worst movie of all time. Poor on a fundamental level 1 stars
4/10/15 FireWithFire A GROSSLY,Leftist-1960s-generation-distortion of the Johnson Co. War 1 stars
8/10/14 D. The R. Takes out-of-control self-indulgence to the level of a metaphysical art. 1 stars
11/25/13 Quigley Not the worst out there, but definitely one of the most boring films ever made. 2 stars
6/08/13 Fire With Fire Typical '70s US movie: Preachy,Leftist,Anti-American shit,plus it's interminably BORING. 1 stars
5/16/13 dr.lao A truly agonizing film experience 1 stars
3/08/13 Jeremy Kendal Heaven's Gate, albeit imperfect, will stay as a gorgeous masterpiece. 5 stars
10/26/12 dede This is worth seeing -- not nearly as bad as some reviewers would have you believe 4 stars
2/26/12 Mark Sawyer The real story here is that Deer Hunter is overrated--HG is better 5 stars
11/15/11 Dane Youssef Heaven is so ugly in this movie, you want to take a moment to consider the alternative. 1 stars
1/27/11 Josie Cotton is a goddess Not a great movie, but It has more merit then people will admit 3 stars
12/14/10 buzz gundersun the film went down for political reason. the children and grandchildren of the evil cattlem 5 stars
8/28/09 Jeff Wilder Bad sure. But I can think of 10 movies excruciatingly worse without doing any research. 2 stars
5/21/09 Duke of Omnium A train wreck from the opening credits to the epilogue 1 stars
12/31/08 brian Gorgeous but lost wandering around within itself. Worth seeing once. 3 stars
4/09/08 Bryan Stephens A beautiful, near perfect film. One day, the consensus will come around to recognizing it. 5 stars
2/10/08 zenshark Don't bother. 1 stars
7/19/07 Todd Cameron An important, de-mythologized look at the West. 5 stars
2/11/07 Spencer Steel Has to be seen to be believed 1 stars
1/29/06 Klaugartoff "One of the most boring, but interesting"... WTF? That's like "excellent, but really bad". 2 stars
1/15/06 Daveman Even the nice photography is superficial in that it only serves to exhalt vacuous nonsense. 1 stars
1/06/06 David Lormans Much better than its reputation 4 stars
12/27/05 Bill terrible 1 stars
12/27/05 joe hard to believe a film can be this bad while pretending to be an important epic 1 stars
7/25/05 Eric Rollins ahhhhhh! Makes my brain hurt. 1 stars
7/14/05 John sets no standards for boring, self indulgence and self importance 1 stars
4/30/05 Sergio The film with the bummest rap in film history. A near masterpiece! 5 stars
12/10/04 Lucas Stensland Big business controls gov. and murders the poor. Very relevant. Thanks Dubya. 5 stars
11/09/04 D. Kremer Too many people's knee-jerk reaction is to crucify this film? Watch it first. Really. 5 stars
10/31/04 Camilla Extremely beautiful 5 stars
9/13/04 Michael Don't believe the hype, an accomplished, beautiful film. 4 stars
7/19/04 sdfr don't know why the bad word of mouth, this is a good movie! 4 stars
7/03/04 Mary Simultaneously ultraviolent and ultraboring; an amazing accomplishment! 1 stars
6/24/04 Karen Stockdale I so wanted to admire this film - but instead I just love it 4 stars
6/21/04 Xavier R. Maybe I'm the 2nd rating Awsome but not the last 5 stars
3/12/04 Chris J. Who on earth are the 19.35% that rated this film "awesome"? 1 stars
12/07/03 Mike The ,ost painful film I've ever watched. It sucks! 1 stars
11/27/03 John mr cimino's overindulgence in his non existent genius - good music for what it's worth 1 stars
11/21/03 adguy If Ed Wood had been given a blank check, his movie would have looked like this. 2 stars
4/11/03 Earl Dittman - Wireless Magazine The most justly maligned film in cinema history. 1 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby Magnificent photography; godawful story and characters. 1 stars
2/11/02 john james could've been a great film, but it was so poorly written. stunning cinematography, though. 3 stars
8/20/01 Alan Stuart The very good elements do not make a convincing whole 3 stars
6/18/01 Steve Langton The most unjustly maligned film in cinema history. 5 stars
4/10/01 iCaptain Yossarian! Confused but forever breathtaking. 5 stars
10/02/00 bobabooey It seemed like it was 3 DAYS long! 1 stars
7/18/00 iCaptain Yossarian! The best movie I've seen. Has all the coherance it needs to keep your attention! Top notch 5 stars
2/26/00 Steve Magee Great photography,Great music, Great Film. 5 stars
2/18/00 Joe Morgan Excellent fucking movie. Excellent detail 5 stars
1/15/00 Steve DeLisle Cimematography, great! Everything else, bad! 2 stars
10/07/99 Larry Gannett Millions went starving in '80 for the cash shilled out to this dreckfest. 2 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Ive never seen anything that is quite as fucking shit as this pile of crap. 1 stars
11/25/98 little jerry I wanted to say it is the most justly maligned film of all time but it isn't that good. 3 stars
10/24/98 Vincent The most unjustly maligned film of all time- a masterpiece 5 stars
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  19-Nov-1980 (R)
  DVD: 29-Feb-2000



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