As Walter Hill–the writer and director of Dead for a Dollar–and the other good New Hollywood directors know, excellent B-movies, those that transcend their situation, can serve as necessary cinematic correctives in times of big budget blockbuster bloat. At least they can serve as viable alternatives to corporation-helmed filmmaking. Dead for a Dollar is such a movie, a sincere if low-budget Western (Walter Hill’s 24th directed film and his 5th or 7th Western, depending on how you count them) from a film craft master and a true cinema artist. That alone is reason enough for me to pay attention, but even better, Dead for a Dollar is a really good movie, the best new traditionally-set Western I’ve seen since the Coen Brothers’ True Grit in 2010 (and I pay attention to all the new Westerns, as that is my favorite genre).
I consider Dead for a Dollar one of the best new movies released in 2022 so far. It is made on the cheap, and quickly. The kinds of cinephiles overly obsessed with the technical aspects of film will find obstacles to their enjoyment. But Dead for a Dollar has a deceptively simple, solid story with great, American themes (setting contemporary debates back in the timeframe of their roots, and having those debates only in the context of the historical setting, in a way I have rarely seen done well, and it is done well here) and the acting is all fantastic, with everyone having obvious fun.