Wild Wild West


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Wild Wild West
"Essentially a retro sci-fi spoof, everything is too much."

It looks as if the first of the Men In Black clones has arrived, with Will Smith still wearing his shades. Essentially a retro sci-fi spoof, everything is too much. The gags have in-built explosive devices. The performances are gothic (that's just Kenneth Branagh) and the effects grandoise.

West Virginia, 1869, is not exactly Star Wars. The gun and the steam train rule. Government agent James West (Smith) is hanging out in the hot tub with a dusky maiden, when interrupted by a gang of gun-runners. Meanwhile, another Government agent, the inventor, Artemis Gordon (Kevin Kline), is dressed as a saloon bar floozy to seduce General "Bloodbath" McGrath (Ted Levine), a half-crazed mountain man, into disclosing the secret of kidnapped scientists.

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To cut a long story's throat, Dr Arliss Lovless (Branagh), wants to assassinate the President of the Not Really United States and take over the world. Insane asylums are stuffed with nutters like this, the only difference being that Loveless is a diabolical genius, which gives him access to foxy computer generated toys.

He builds a giant spider from a Meccano kit, fuelled by coal, wood and dead enemies, which lurches across the desert, spewing black smoke and shooting rockets at parked rolling stock. Adding to the pseudo Jules Verne grotesquery of the thing, Loveless is missing his lower body, which puts a whole new meaning to bowel movements.

Smith and Kline endeavour to uphold the tradition of the one-liner, while desperately seeking a style in which they can come together. It doesn't happen. Smith remains the coolest dude, with a flashy quick-draw action, while Kline is somewhere else, cartooning a Victorian eccentric, as from the vaudeville stage.

Branagh relishes his role, realising, quite rightly, that in movies such as this it is the villain's duty to overact. As for the girl who tags along (Salma Hayek), best not enquire. She cannot be blamed for an ill thought out support role. You have to remember that director, Barry Sonnenfeld, is an effects man. Character and storyline follow at a respectful distance.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Two Wild West guns for hire unite to save the president of the Not Really United States.
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Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Writer: Jim Thomas, John Thomas

Starring: Will Smith, Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, Salma Hayek, M Emmet Walsh, Ted Levine

Year: 1999

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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