The title of the new Walter Hill Western “Dead for a Dollar” makes it sound like a spaghetti Western, and the picture opens with stunning vistas and a wistfully valorous neo-Morricone score that gives you the impression — maybe the hope — that it will be. It ends on a very different note: a series of titles explaining, with precise dates and details, what happened to each of the main characters, as if the film were based on a true story. Veteran bounty hunter Max Borlund heads deep into Mexican territory to find and return Rachel Kidd, the wife of a wealthy businessman. After learning she actually fled from the abusive marriage, Max faces a choice: finish the job he’s been hired to do, or stand aside while ruthless mercenary outlaws and his longtime rival close in on a town that’s been his temporary sanctuary.

"Dead For A Dollar" - New Walter Hill Western

Hill, who is now 80 but still directs with his lean-and-mean vigor and classical rawhide stoicism (the movie is dedicated to Budd Boetticher, the legendary low-budget Western director of the ’50s), builds “Dead for a Dollar” around a vintage confrontation between two men: Max Borlund, a bounty hunter played by Christoph Waltz with a worldly twinkle that basically allows him to parade himself as an impish assassin, and Joe Cribbens, a gambler and outlaw played by Willem Dafoe as the most live-and-let-live of sociopaths. These two live, in deed or spirit, outside the law. They’ve known each other a long time and collide in the opening scene, when Joe is being released from prison. But then they go their separate ways. The film turns its attention to Max on his latest mission-for-hire, which involves several characters you would never have seen in a Budd Boetticher movie of the ’50s, or even a Walter Hill Western of the ’70s or ’80s.

"Dead For A Dollar" - New Walter Hill Western

 

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