Review: Deadwood: The Movie
Thirteen years ago, audiences were left in disbelief when Deadwood was canned by HBO after its third and unresolved final season. Season 3 began to take the series in a different direction, as the corrupt George Hearst rocked the small town in South Dakota and left beloved characters deceased and audience’s mind’s in fury with what could have happened next once the series finale aired. Now, viewers can take a trip back into the thoroughfare of Deadwood and ease their minds for a final time. David Milch created a show unlike any other that I’ve seen. Tonally, it’s like a Shakespearean western with an Iambic pentameter of swear words in its arsenal. Deadwood, like the show of old, doesn’t skimp on arguments and scandal. Thankfully, Milch and seasoned Deadwood director Daniel Minahan were able to carry over major elements from the show right into the movie.
Deadwood: The Movie opens up with an audacious “Calamity” Jane Cannary (Robin Weigert) and immediately the emotions start to cultivate. Jane, serious at times, crackles with some hilarity in the dialogue and you’re immediately drawn back into Milch’s world. Upon arriving in the town of Deadwood, you see how everything has grown. Age has swept over the town as Seth and Martha (Timothy Olyphant and Anna Gunn) have three children, Trixie and Sol (Paula Malcomson and John Hawkes) are about to have a baby, and meanwhile Al Swearengin (Ian McShane) is succumbing to his age and ailments, as his liver is deteriorating after years of abuse.
As we make our way through town, we catch up with beloved characters like Charlie Utter, Alma Ellsworth, Doc, Joanie Stubbs, Jewel, and more. The joy of seeing our favorite characters is meaningful but time marches on. George Hearst (Gerald McRaney) returns to Deadwood to construct telephone poles in order to bring a modernized version of communication through the town. However, he’s stuck because the land he needs to build on is owned by someone residing in Deadwood. The town is obstinate against change and has a cold shoulder for Hearst due to his prior conspiring. As you might have guessed, chaos ensues as all hell breaks loose in a fight for what is right in the mind of the townsfolk.
Deadwood: The Movie does a perfect job of blending what we already know and giving us just a bit of new information. The film is not heavily plot-driven and focuses more on the characters. It all takes place in a small moment of time with an ending that is up to the interpretation of the viewer. Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant shine in their roles once again. They’ve always been the frontrunners of the series and rightfully so. McShane’s Swearengen takes the cake. In Deadwood the show, we know Swearengen as a no holds barred kind of guy. Whatever he wants he gets and he doesn’t care what happens in the meantime. In the film, we see a more paternal side of Swearengen as he embraces his feelings for his friends and comes to terms with his ailments. Seeing this change in temperament softens the heart. On the other hand, Olyphant stepped it up a notch for this movie in a more aggressive manner. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens in the TV show Justified is in many ways an extension of the character he molded in Deadwood. If you compare the two performances, you can absolutely tell that Olyphant never fully let go of Givens once Justified ended and has emulated that character in this new elder Marshall Seth Bullock persona. This is a welcome change and one that really raised eyebrows of excitement.
We are reminded of the pains endured from the show through flashbacks, which are heartbreaking but necessary to jolt our memory. Commotion never dissipated from Deadwood either. Alma Ellsworth (Molly Parker) still has love for Bullock when she returns to town and is emotionally devastated when she sees him with his family. Trixie is still brazen as ever and a major proponent of saying what is on her mind, especially in relation to Hearst. Jane still confides in Utter and fancies Joanie, while Dan and Johnny are presently by the side of Al, still reveling in their slapstick mockery. Keep an eye out for yet another Garret Dillahunt Deadwood role. Third time's the charm, right? All of these things make for unconditionally delightful viewing.
Having seen the series twice and loved every second of it, Deadwood: The Movie was like Cheers except I’m the bartender and the characters are my customers. It was so great seeing everyone and emotions were on high from beginning to end. There may or may not have been tears shed. Okay, there absolutely were some and I’ll own up to my sobbing. As a film it works, but I couldn’t help thinking how great it would’ve been as a mini-series. There is a slew of nostalgia that was packed in the near 2-hour long runtime and I still found myself yearning for more. David Milch is currently suffering from Alzheimer’s and I am happy with what we got. He has given a sense of closure to many fans and his conclusion is a wonderful sendoff. Deadwood is my go to when I need a smile, I love it so much. There is a quote in the film that holds true for me now that Deadwood has its closure:
“We’re all of us haunted by our own fucking thoughts, so make friends with her ghost. It ain’t going fucking anywhere!”
Even though the ‘her’ is referring to certain someone, you can take this quote and use it in relation to the series. So watch it and be friends with it, because though it’s now concluded and a mere ghost in the entertainment stratosphere, Deadwood isn’t going anywhere, cocksuckers.