Movie Review: Deadwood: The Movie

I’m not a fanboy of many things but I am of DEADWOOD. I watched the TV show religiously every week (the first few episodes with subtitles until I could understand what Al Swearengen was saying), I’ve been to the real Deadwood, South Dakota (admittedly because I have friends who live there), and I’ve even bought the T-shirt, which I’m wearing as I write this. Like every DEADWOOD fan, I was left bereft when HBO cancelled the series after three seasons, leaving so many storylines dangling in the breeze. With each announcement over the past 13 years that a movie, or sometimes two movies, would be made to provide closure to us fans, I was hopeful that one day I’d be able to spend a few more hours with my favourite gun-toting, c***sucking TV heroes and rogues once again. That day has finally arrived.

If you haven’t seen the TV show, watching DEADWOOD: THE MOVIE isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you. And, if you’re like me and you haven’t watched the show since its demise in 2006, you’re going to struggle to remember where it left off. Fortunately, HBO has produced a three-minute series recap that’s available on YouTube.

Everyone is back except for a few familiar faces like Bella Union gambling hall and bordello owner, Cy Tolliver, and “the bagman from Yankton”, Silas Adams. Tolliver actor Powers Boothe died in 2017 while Adams actor Titus Welliver had a scheduling conflict with his current TV series, BOSCH. (Interestingly, Boothe is buried in Deadwood, Texas.) A few other characters who died in the TV series, like Wild Bill Hickok (Keith Carradine), are seen in flashback in the movie.

As the story opens, the time is now 1889 and the gold mining town is celebrating South Dakota’s statehood. Time has affected our friends in different ways. Bullock (Timothy Olyphant, TV’s SANTA CLARITA DIET) is still Deadwood’s marshal but now he’s more no-nonsense than ever. Swearengen (Ian McShane, the JOHN WICK series) still runs The Gem but he’s lost his influence in the town. Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens, GONE GIRL) has now taken over the Bella Union, inheriting it from Cy; Doc Cochran (character actor Brad Dourif) is even more crotchety than before; and E.B. Farnum (William Sanderson, TV’s TRUE BLOOD), while still the town’s mayor, seems to be less conniving. And feisty but loveable prostitute Trixie (Paula Malcomson, the HUNGER GAMES series) is about to give birth to her and Sol Star’s (John Hawkes, THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI) child. The world outside of Deadwood has changed too. The train now runs right up to the town’s doorstep and that crazy new invention, the telephone, has also arrived, the latter thanks to the now junior senator from California, George Hearst (Gerald McRaney, TV’s HOUSE OF CARDS). Hearst has returned to Deadwood to buy up more land so that his company can lay more telephone poles. One property that’s in his sights belongs to all-round good guy, Charlie Utter (Dayton Callie, TV’s SONS OF ANARCHY). Meanwhile, Alma Garrett Ellsworth (Molly Parker, TV’s HOUSE OF CARDS) has also returned to Deadwood along with her ward, Sofia, to tie up some loose ends as has Calamity Jane (Robin Weigert, TV’s BIG LITTLE LIES).

Thanks to the fabulous writing by David Milch, it only takes a moment before the audience feels part of this long-awaited reunion. To be fair, there isn’t a great deal of plot here as there are so many story arcs that Milch needed to address but who really cares? Like Alma and Jane, we’re there for closure and that’s what we’re given. DEADWOOD: THE MOVIE doesn’t pander to its fans but it does service them respectfully. And when we get to hear Al’s profanity-laced, Baroque-inspired language one more time, and give our other friends a proper goodbye, what more is there to ask for?

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, June 7th at the special time of 9:30 am HK time because it’s Dragon Boat Day!

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