Reviews

Wild Wild West

2

American reviewers universally slammed this movie coast to coast, then watched helplessly as it took nearly $50 million during its opening weekend. It seems that such is the dream-team appeal of star Will Smith and director Barry Sonnenfeld (their last meeting produced Men In Black) that people will go and see this whatever. So even if you're looking forward to queuing up now, be in no doubt that this is such a limp, lifeless, uninterestingly tedious blockbuster that within the first 30 minutes, you'll be looking back at last summer as if Godzilla was some masterpiece of entertainment.

How professional film-makers can manage to make every action sequence, every gag and every sharp one-liner fall so wide of the mark is a mystery, especially since they can call on such great actors, astounding costumes and jaw-to-floor special effects throughout.

So if the International Court of Human Rights was to charge Wild Wild West for crimes against humanity, who would be in the dock? It's a tricky one, because if ever a film looked like it had been shot, scripted and edited entirely by committee then it's this one - from its spectacularly tension-free action opener involving Will Smith and a runaway carriage of nitro-glycerine to its predictable showdown between Smith and the half-man, half-wheelchair Dr Loveless, played with rolling mad eyes and a Southern Belle accent by Kenneth Branagh. Towns explode, sinister neck-seeking razor-frisbees fly through the air and 80-foot-high steam-powered mechanical spiders scuttle across the desert, while all the time the audience sits in joyless limbo and rummages around for the last red sweetie in the packet.

The always sexy Salma Hayek hogs a couple of scenes before vanishing for most of the movie, almost as if her part had been cut (it was) and she hadn't been called back for the reshoots that occurred after terrible test screenings (she wasn't). Kline and Smith try for one of those love/hate buddy things, but their feuding banter has all the immediacy of one office worker asking another to pass the Tippex. And although the mechanical and CGI effects work well enough to convince you that robots in the 19th century might have been possible, the rest appears to have been shot against a blue screen. Will Smith's arrival at the White House, for example, looks exactly like him and a horse in a studio, with the background matted in later. Even when they're on location in the desert, the hyper-rich colours make everything feel stagey.

Look, we're not arrogant enough to assume that you won't watch this simply because we told you not to. After all, it cost a fortune to make, has got Will with his shirt off, Salma in some excellently tarty clothing and is topped off with loads of explosions - what's not to like? All we're saying is, just don't say we didn't warn you...

Verdict:

Long overdue for his first duff movie, even the impossible-to-hate Will Smith can't distract you from the tedium of this movie. All that's missing is a story, pace, excitement or any sense of danger. A hundred or so minutes of missable anti-entertainment.

Film Details

  • 12
  • UK Theatrical Release Date: August 13th 1999

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