Once Upon a Time in Deadwood, 2019.
Directed by Rene Perez.
Starring Robert Bronzi, Michael Pare, Karin Brauns and Lauren Compton.
A notorious gunslinger is slipped a slow-acting poison by an heiress and told he has three days to track down and rescue her sister, who has been kidnapped by a gang of hoodlums and holds the antidote.
The grim reaper is a cruel beast. Eventually he’ll catch up to us all. Whether you’re Joe Bloggs on the street, going about your daily grind, or whether you’re a Hollywood icon. We’ve now reached a point where the big budget blockbusters can resurrect long dead actors. Peter Cushing was brought back from beyond to appear in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (albeit feeling decidedly creepy) but prior to pioneering CGI, the best hope was a lookalike. Bruce Lee has been treated to countless ‘doubles’ trying to resurrect his image on screen (and often baring almost no resemblance).
Of late in the DTV action world one could be forgiven for requiring a double (nay-triple) take to look over an impending release appearing to have Charles Bronson on leading duties. On closer inspection you would find it is actually Robert Bronzi, a Hungarian actor who looks almost identical to the late great Bronson. With the aid of director and regular collaborator, Rene Perez, Bronzi has appeared in a number of ‘Bronson’ themed films. There’s been the Death Wish clone Death Kiss (which in fairness looked more enjoyable than the Bruce Willis remake) and now we have Bronzi delving into prime Bronson territory with a Western.
Once Upon a Time In Deadwood sees Bronzi as a near silent gun for hire who is poisoned and tasked with rescuing the sister of his poisoner within three days. The captive sister holding the antidote and Bronzi’s salvation. It’s fairly routine western fair with plenty of gun battles. As my first delve into Bronzi cinema I found the experience an odd mix of nostalgic and weird. As far as the gimmick, it added something a lot of DTV westerns seem to lack (a point of interest). Bronzi is kept silent less for Bronson nod and more for the fact his English is awkward (and may have been dubbed over too). Meanwhile, genre stalwart Michael Pare appears and offers some presence as the villain.
The music captures the western vibe nicely and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome at 84 minutes. The small budget obviously allowed for just a limited amount of gun-play and cowboy action, and a protagonist who makes Bronson’s iconic Harmonica character (Once Upon a Time In The West) seem as talkative as a mumblecore protagonist means that a short run-time is a necessity.
My biggest gripe with the film is probably the cinematography. If you’re going to go for a Bronson/Western ode, then crank up your warm colours. The film may have benefited from shooting in scope too (235 wide, rather than 178/185). The grade is a little drawn, faded and overly de-saturated. Westerns benefit more, and historically at their best, from evoking searing sun, heat, sweat and a vast frame. That aside, it is well shot and nicely put together, forgoing too many modern avid fart sins (just that modern DTV dim grade that seems to be popular).
Overall this Bronson ode doesn’t break any new ground, but provides an intriguing watch for fans of the icon’s past work, whether you come out from it wanting to revisit Bronzi or not, it will scratch a curious itch.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★