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Indyfreak's Movie Reviews (535)

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Heaven's Gate 
The Ultimate Hollywood Flop - Kinda True.
2/4 stars

Heaven's Gate is one of the most infamous failures in Hollywood history.

An expensive flop directed by an ego driven perfectionist; a movie that nearly bankrupted its own studio; and killed the career of said ego driven perfectionist Michael Cimino. When first released in 1980, reviews were unforgiving and extremely harsh. Were they warranted?

Not necessarily. The film is severely flawed and perhaps the most self indulgent example of excess from the New Hollywood era of the 1970s and early 80s. Stories of Michael Cimino's perfectionism and wasteful spending are now legendary. But I can see the money on screen. I can see the beautiful sets and exquisite cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond which are both stunning.

The story however does not warrant the extraordinary running time which originally ran over five hours. The cut I have watched ran at about an estimated 217 minutes (or nearly four hours). Does it make it better viewing? Well it takes forever for the simplest things to happen so no.

But I cannot bring myself to be completely dismissive of the film. The scale and size of the production is like nothing seen in Hollywood today or even back in 1980. The action scenes are impressively staged. Christopher Walken, John Hurt, and Sam Waterston do give solid performances. But lead actor Kris Kristofferson is left with a blank slate of a character. He generally just reacts to events as they happen and rarely has the chance to do something heroic or even interesting. French actress Isabella Huppert looks lovely in her nude scenes but she's severely miscast as the love interest.

History has proved kinder to 'HEAVEN'S GATE' than when it was first released. But that does not mean it's a good movie. But it remains fascinating in its failure.


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