Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Billy The Kid and countless other old West heroes should one day each get the proper big screen treatment their stories and legends deserve, kind of like Wyatt Earp got with WYATT EARP and the more glamorous TOMBSTONE. For those of you clamoring for a good biopic on Wild Bill Hickok, well…this isn’t it. This tried to be more TOMBSTONE than WYATT EARP and although it might appease those looking for their Western fix, it’s not enough to please anyone looking for a good film.
The true life and times of Wild Bill vary greatly depending on what book you’re reading and where you’re getting the information. But there are some general things that we accept, such as how he died, his military service and several other steps along the way. HICKOK touches on some of these, but in general, there’s not much that’s true. HICKOK focuses on Wild Bill’s (Hemsworth) time in Abilene, KS as he reluctantly takes on the role of marshal to help clean up the town. His main nemesis is with a saloon owner named Phil Poe (Adkins) who doesn’t like Hickok’s new laws and attempts to run him out of town. Hickok actually had a real run in with a saloon owner named Phil Coe, but HICKOK adds in a love triangle (kind of taken from another Wild Bill legend) and blurs the real Coe, which might be why they changed the name to Poe.
Although American audiences know Liam and Chris, most don’t know Luke Hemsworth. Luke is a fine enough actor and although he didn’t have much to work with in HICKOK, he did fine. I’d like to see him get a more juicy role to see if he can really act, but I think we’ve seen enough between this and ‘Westworld’ to give him a shot with something meatier. Trace Adkins, Kris Kristofferson and even Bruce Dern show up to add some credibility to the film and although they’re all experienced in the Western genre, they didn’t knock anything out of the park.
HICKOK has a tick in all of the standard Western check boxes, complete with tough guys talking tough, a few duels, some shootouts and plenty of whores and whiskey just for good measure. This falls into a lot of the pitfalls of most straight to video movies and you get a lot of instances of the camera hanging on a scene a moment too long or actors not quite delivering a line correctly. Director Timothy Woodward Jr. does what he can to avoid these pitfalls, but they’re still there.
I might be judging it on a sliding scale, but HICKOK does everything okay, even if it feels more like a long episode of a television show than a movie. I like Luke Hemsworth and Woodward Jr. adds enough style to keep things interesting, but at the end of the day, HICKOK isn’t going to make the cut the next time I need to revisit the Western genre.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I’ve reviewed a lot of very bad movies on 4K, but I think HICKOK is the first straight to video film, so I didn’t have high expectations. I started the film and immediately noticed that the colors looked way off and something wasn’t right. Turns out, it was because I had the HDR on but the disc wasn’t equipped with HDR. There was only one other 4K title I can think of that I reviewed that didn’t have HDR and that was BAD SANTA 2. The lack of HDR really hurts the overall presentation of HICKOK and it’s disappointing too because the Western landscapes probably would have looked really good with HDR. As is, this is only a very marginal upgrade over the Blu-ray. You get a little more detail, especially in close-ups, but you really have to look for them.
Audio: The DTS audio track is the same one included on the Blu-ray.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
The 4K UHD does not contain any exclusive features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which includes the following special features:
The Road to Abilene: Making Hickok (14:36): This is a short making-of featurette, focused heavily on director Timothy Woodward Jr., who I believe is doing this at home, in his pajamas, on a webcam. He gives some decent information and discusses some of the liberties they took with the story.
Deleted Scenes (2:50): Four quick scenes that presumably missed the cut due to pacing issues.