Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN DEADWOOD (2019)
I first saw the Charles Bronson lookalike Robert Bronzi in last year’s Death Kiss. Now he’s back, this time in a Western, Once Upon A Time In Deadwood. Unfortunately, so is Rene Perez who wrote and directed Death Kiss He could best be described as. America’s answer to Uwe Bolle. But I was hoping the involvement of Jeff Miller (Strange Nature, The Toy Box) as co-writer and producer might help save it. Unlike Perez, he’s at least been involved with some good films.
Once Upon a Time in Deadwood starts with outlaws raiding a small town. The Colonel (Robert Bronzi) is doing a good job of dispatching them until one gets a bright idea. He drags a woman to the down gallows and slaps her into a noose. Faced with the choice of stopping them or saving her he manages to fail at both. Hell of a way to introduce the hero.
Flash forward and The Colonel is wandering across the west. He’s sought out by Ursula (Karin Brauns, The Obsidian Curse) who’s sister Abigale (Lauren Compton, Hell Girl, Killer Camera Monsters) and servant Daisy (Jadzia Perez) have been kidnapped by Swearengen’s (Michael Paré, Streets Of Fire, Mayday) gang. He declines her offer to hire him for the job of rescuing them but does eat the meal she offers him. That turns out to be a bad move. It’s poisoned and Abigale has the antidote. With no choice now he sets out with Ursula on a rescue mission.
I knew Once Upon a Time in Deadwood had issues less than a minute into it. One of the townsfolk gets shot and makes repeated efforts not to cushion his fall but to hold onto his hat as he falls down the stairs. We get that and lots of horrible CGI blood spray and bullet hits. Granted we do get some blood squibs later in the film but the opening is all computer-generated.
There’s also a lot of run-ins with random bad guys, just like in their previous film. This just wastes time and dilutes the plot. In both cases, Bronzi’s character was fighting a gang, which means plenty of adversaries. There was no reason not to keep the focus on them instead of letting the plot wander aimlessly.
The film was shot in California as well as in Western Leone, near Almeria, Spain. And that does help give it some of the feel of the old Euro Westerns. It also pulls a few plot points from them too.
Most notably the occasional spasms the poison gives him made me think of A Minute To Pray, A Second To Die. Unfortunately, the dialogue in Once Upon a Time in Deadwood also made me think of Spaghetti Westerns. It’s so awful it sounds like a badly translated dubbing.
Long on talk and short on good action scenes Once Upon A Time In Deadwood lumbers along to a final showdown that renders the film pointless. Even the final shootout isn’t between The Colonel and Swearengen. Paré had already used up his ten minutes of screen time by that point. Instead, we get some of his henchmen making the last stand in what frequently looks like a first-person shooter video game.
Bronzi’s next film Escape from Death Block 13 is written and directed by Gary Jones instead of Perez. Hopefully, that change will finally give him a chance to show what he can do.
Once Upon A Time In Deadwood comes out in the U.S. on October 1st on digital and on November 19th on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment. You can check for updates on the film’s Facebook page.