Deadwood: The Movie (Spoiler Free Review)

Deadwood: The Movie is written by David Milch and directed by Daniel Minahan. Deadwood was originally a TV show on HBO that ran from 2004-2006. It is still one of the highest rated and reviewed dramas of all time, and one of my personal favorite shows ever. It is one of the few shows I have ever given a 10 out of 10. The show was created and produced by David Milch who also wrote and produced the movie which released on May 31st, 2019 on HBO as part of the HBO Films productions. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the original show from 2004, I am sorry to tell you that this film will make no sense neither will it have any sort of emotional impact on you. However I sincerely urge anyone who hasn’t watched it, to try their level best to watch the show anyway they can. For international audiences the show is available on Amazon Prime and for American audiences it is available on HBO Go. If you enjoy a good drama series with flawless dialogue and character development set in a wild west frontier backdrop, this is a show waiting to be watched by you. I am well aware that the show has not been watched by many people which is why I took the release of the film as an opportunity to hopefully praise the show and it’s attempt at a conclusion with the movie.

Original poster of Deadwood Season 3 from 2006

I cannot praise the show enough, but this isn’t a review of the show, this is a review of the movie. Now without any spoilers, the movie picks up in 1889, 10 years later where we left off with our characters from the show, naturally all the characters have evolved and so has the set pieces. What I loved about the show was the creation of the town of Deadwood (which is a real town in South Dakota) and the sets they made for the show. It was the most realistic and lived in set piece on television that I had seen at the time. The movie takes that same look and feel and expands on it making lavish set pieces. Since the original show had a much smaller budget, the movie was able to further expand on details with the costumes and props.

The creation of Deadwood for the movie.

One thing I have to admire about the movie is that they made the entire set, both interior and exterior, from scratch again. Now while the sets are bigger and more elaborate than the show, for me it somehow felt more artificial. It didn’t have that wild west frontier town dirt and grime from the show. That is also because this is 10 years later and the town is more “civilized” and is being celebrated into its statehood of South Dakota. But still for me it looked and felt like a set and not as real and lived in as the set in the show during 2004-2006. That is just me nitpicking because I am in love with the show and admire everything they did with it. The movie does do a good job in bringing everything and everyone back together again to try to give some closure. Instead of closure, I just wanted more, more movies or perhaps another season. As of now there aren’t any plans but I hope the success of the movie greenlights a new/farewell season to properly wrap things up. Because for me, as enjoyable as the movie was, it didn’t give me a sense of closure.
Seeing Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) together on screen again was a true delight. Their chemistry in the show is further enlightened in the movie. Another little interesting tidbit about the show, it is based on a true story about actual lawmen and gunslingers migrating to the volatile town of Deadwood, and how that mixed bag of personalities kept under pressure in a town can lead to intense drama unfolding. Basically “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us,” and that is the relationship of Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, a lawman and a corrupt business owner. I can’t help but love Al Swearengen, his portrayal by Ian McShane is flawless, seriously one of the best characters written for television. We expect him to be the villain of the show and movie, but he just wins the hearts of the viewers instead.

Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen at the Gem Saloon

The music in the movie is just great, they recreated the theme from the show and they even brought back the original song Hog of the Forsaken. The whole movie is basically one large nostalgic trip for fans like me, complete with flashback scenes. I understand why they added them, the last episode of the show aired in 2006, but since I had just rewatched the whole show again I found the flashbacks detached me from the narrative. I was satisfied with the 2 hour runtime, it didn’t bore me at all but it also didn’t make me feel like this is the end. I felt the same after the movie as I did after season 3 of the show; wanting more, wanting a conclusion and proper send off.

Welcome The F**k Back indeed.

I’m giving Deadwood: The Movie an 8.5 out of 10.
This movie is very enjoyable for a fan of the show, but if you have watched the show and aren’t a fan, this movie won’t do much to convince you otherwise. The movie doesn’t add much more to what already exists in Deadwood, but for me that’s not a bad thing since the show was perfect. Sometimes less is more and I can see some people wanting more out of this movie. I really do hope they make another season/mini-series/movie of Deadwood, this is a franchise that deserves more recognition.

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