23rd Oct2019

‘Once Upon a Time in Deadwood’ Review

by Dom Hastings

Stars: Robert Bronzi, Karin Brauns, Michael Paré, Lauren Compton, J.D. Angstadt, Woody Clendenen, Justin Hawkins, Tony Jackson, Ronnie D. Lee, Chris Matteis, George J. Merino | Written by Rene Perez, Jeff Miller | Directed by Rene Perez

once-time-deadwood-poster

The Face of Death is back…sort of. Robert Bronzi, the direct-to-video delight who looks just like Charles Bronson, is back in another low-budget genre movie. This time? Once Upon a Time in Deadwood , and no, it’s totally unrelated to Deadwood.

Starring as The Colonel, Bronzi is a no-nonsense, yet stylish six-shooter. Dressed to kill in all-black, Colonel is the anti-hero in demand in 1880s “Utah Territory”. Opening with raw gunfight, we immediately recognise Colonel as the man to reckon with, and a man with a vengeful cause. Subsequently, however, Colonel has the initial misfortune of encountering the beautiful, yet sly, Ursula (Karin Brauns). In slight homage to Escape from New York, Colonel is poisoned with an approximate time limit to retrieve the antidote and help Ursula. The tricky part? The Colonel has to enter Deadwood and infiltrate a brothel housing both Ursula’s sister and the antidote… On a journey through the snow and wilderness, Colonel and Ursula encounter savages and perverts, but will the Bronson doppelganger make it into Deadwood in time?

An obvious low-budget picture, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood nitially looks inferior to TV-Movie quality, though this misfortune is soon undone once the film progresses from the generic saloon and town, and into the hills and snow. Be it a Clint classic or a direct-to-video masterpiece, vibrant wilderness shooting and the western go terrifically hand in hand, as such the case with Once Upon a Time in Deadwood . It is of a remarkable quality that the production values increase significantly once beautiful sceneries are introduced.

Jokes aside on his facial appearance, Bronzi is a legit badass in this western. He has the look, the skills, the fear and the respect. A man of little words and a man of much mystery, Bronzi’s Colonel is presented with an ambiance of intrigue and old school masculinity. Coolness aside, the Colonel is flawed. A surprising number of failed gunshots and the naivety in getting involved with the sensational Ursula, Colonel’s flaws in fact, humanises an almost invincible character.

Brauns’ Ursula on the other hand is strong and smart, though sadly suffers from having to suffer in order to influence the male protagonist’s actions. A dated trope aside, Ursula’s stance on killing bad people evolves throughout in accordance to her own safety. She confronts Colonel on multiple occasions as to why this bad person or that bad person had to be killed, but when placed in a situation where it is literally kill or be killed, Ursula takes matters into her own hands. Positively, a strong development of an already strong character. Of course, this isn’t an endorsement of killing people, but in the context of the film, Ursula can either kill or be raped and killed.

Another collaboration between director Rene Perez and actor Robert Bronzi, there is an apparent feeling that the practitioner and performer know how exactly to get the best out of each other. Though not quite Scorsese and De Niro, who knows where this direct-to-video collaboration can progress to.

Truthfully, Once Upon a Time in Deadwood is not going to exist as the genesis of a western renaissance. Alongside the recent-ish likes of Bone Tomahawk, From Hell to the Wild West and Painted Woman, the revisionist western is alive in the worlds of direct-to-video and VOD. Here’s hoping that this trend can continue to grow beyond limited releases and cult fandoms, and make a gun-blazing entrance in the mainstream.

*** 3/5

Once Upon a Time in Deadwood is out now on DVD and Digital in the US, courtesy of Uncork’d Entertainment.

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