A privileged, gritty Harvard man (Kris Kristofferson) heads West in the late 1800s to serve as a lawman in Johnson County, Wyoming and instill decency in the still lawless territory. There, he finds himself as lead defender of the migrant workers who are being violently targeted by the cattle barons and in a personal rivalry with friend and hired gun of the organization (Christopher Walken) who is also romancing his girlfriend/bordello house madam (Isabelle Huppert). Heaven's Gate is one of the most notorious debacles in Hollywood history, one that crippled United Artists and independent movie making while, in effect, ending director Michael Cimino's career. However, the biggest tragedy may be that there was probably a decent, salvageable picture here. The performances almost work, Kristofferson is strong, Sam Waterston ok in parts playing a ludicrously evil villain, and a badly miscast Walken has his moments. Also present is some grand, intricate staging and great camerawork capturing majestic Western vistas. However, the movie is poorly edited, overlong by over a half, and contains just about the worst color hue and sound I've ever seen in an epic movie. Judging from the imprudent, ill-advised final product left on screen, Heaven's Gate infelicitous reputation (which some are now trying to lift) seems all but justified.
** out of ****