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Monday, June 26, 2017

HICKOK -- Movie Review by Porfle

HICKOK (Cinedigm, 2017) is one of a current breed of modestly produced, low-key, but solid westerns that are just as entertaining as anything if you set your expectations accordingly. 

I've grown quite fond of their simplicity, their often beautiful photography, their museum-quality Old West settings (things look brand new, but back then, for a while anyway, they were), and their earnest effort to give fans of the traditional western what the big studios rarely offer these days.  

What's more, this easy-to-take saga of "Wild Bill" Hickok's younger days as outlaw-turned-lawman delivers the goods in a most satisfying way whenever it's time to clear leather and start blasting.

Luke Hemsworth (THE ANOMALY, "Westworld") stars as the young Civil War veteran making his way through the post-war west, as valor on the battlefield translates into a knack for survival in peacetime.  This often necessitates straddling the line of the law and sometimes ending up on the wrong side of it.

Bill is cocky and arrogant but only kills when he has to, a quality that helps land him a job as marshall of a lawless town when the mayor (Kris Kristofferson, nowadays ably portraying wise old souls) sees the good in him. 

This doesn't stop Bill from extorting protection money from the quietly dangerous saloon owner Phil Poe (Trace Adkins), whose wife Mattie (Cameron Richardson, OPEN WATER 2: ADRIFT) turns out to be an old and way-too-close acquaintance.  (Which, unsurprisingly, will end up causing some very unfortunate complications.) 

While engaging enough on their own, HICKOK's plot development and dialogue are frequently punctuated by welcome bursts of lead-slinging action that are excitingly staged and pack just the right kind of wallop.

What triggers the main conflict here is Hickok's decision to install one of those highly unpopular bans on guns within city limits, driving customers away from Poe's saloon and hotel. 

Relations between the two deteriorate to the point where coldblooded killer John Wesley Hardin (Kaiwi Lyman-Mersereau, TRADED) is enlisted to eliminate the problem, resulting in one of the film's most surprising and suspenseful twists.

Hemsworth plays the lead role lightly at first--his "Wild Bill" has a mischievous streak and isn't nearly as full of himself as many western heroes tend to be--yet his character gains increasing gravitas as the story progresses.  Physically, he's just right as someone who can take care of himself in a situation requiring fists and/or guns as well as wits.

His softer side is demonstrated during a heartfelt scene in which he relates a tall tale of his own derring-do for Mattie's son after he's been shot in the leg, while the Doc (the venerable Bruce Dern adding his considerable presence to the proceedings) digs the bullet out.  Scenes such as this contribute to Hickok's evolution into a serious, thoughtful man with a sincere desire to set things right.

As his nemesis Poe, Trace Adkins (TRADED, STAGECOACH: THE TEXAS JACK STORY, DEEPWATER HORIZON) once again proves an imposing presence well-suited for this sort of robust, old-fashioned western.  Tall, brawny, and possessing a voice like the lower registers of a pipe organ, Adkins ably conveys his character's dark, slowburn anger that will eventually erupt into violence.

Playing fast and loose with the facts--but in the most fun ways--HICKOK harkens back to a time when westerns were populated by actors who actually looked like, and often were, the kind of real men they were portraying.  And when it's time for them to stop talking and start shooting, you can almost smell the gunsmoke.

Opens Theatrically July 7 in Top Markets Including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas
Also Available On Demand & Digital HD

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