Purgatory (1999 film)
VIDEO of Purgatory (1999) – Western
|Written by||Gordon T. Dawson|
|Directed by||Uli Edel|
J. D. Souther
|Theme music composer||Brad Fiedel|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||94 minutes|
|Original release||January 10, 1999|
An outlaw band led by Blackjack Britton and Cavin Guthrie rob a bank. During the subsequent gunfight, a woman named Dolly Sloan is shot and dies in the arms of Cavin’s nephew Sonny. The gang flees and is pursued by aposse. After passing through a dust storm, they enter a tunnel and emerge at the other end in the town of Refuge. The gang lie about their injuries and convince the townspeople to help them tend to their wounds. The gang is puzzled by the town’s residents, who don’t carry guns or drink at the saloon and who immediately flock to the church whenever the bell rings.
Sonny thinks he has seen some of the town’s residents before, but he is unable to remember where. He witnesses a mysterious stagecoach arriving at night with a woman in it who is identical to Dolly Sloan. The rest of the outlaw gang begin causing trouble in town, occupying the saloon and making plans to steal supplies before leaving. Sonny befriends a woman named Rose who tries to steer him away from asking questions about the town and the people in it. As he investigates further, Sonny realizes that the town appears to be occupied by former notorious outlaws. Sonny works out that the sheriff is actually Wild Bill Hickock, the bartender at the saloon is Jesse James, and the town doctor is Doc Holliday. He repeatedly confronts the outlaws about their true identities but they all deny who they are and advise him to let it go. Sonny talks to a man he believes is Lefty Slade, now a gardener named Lamb. He grabs the man’s arm and sees a bullet wound on his wrist, prompting the man to admit he was Slade. Before Sonny can ask more questions, some of Blackjack’s men tear up Lamb’s garden. Enraged, Lamb grabs a shovel and beats one to death. Instantly regretting his action, Lamb begins to cry as a mysterious Native American man called The Gatekeeper appears at the edge of the woods. Lamb willingly leaves with The Gatekeeper while the townspeople gather to watch. Lamb is lead to a fiery pit that is implied to be Hell and is cast in, screaming in pain as he falls.
While talking to Doc, Sonny accidentally lets slip the true nature of their gang. Upon hearing that they are all wanted outlaws, the Sheriff asks them all to saddle up and leave town. Blackjack orders all his men to assemble in the saloon except Sonny, whom Calvin rejects from the gang. Sonny sneaks in anyway and hears the gang plan to rob the town on their way out. Sonny joins Rose and the others in church where he begs them to defend their town. They townspeople finally admit to Sonny that they are really the famous outlaws he suspects them to be, and that Refuge is a form of Purgatory. If the people in the town can go ten years while resisting the temptations of their former lives they are admitted to Heaven. They don’t want to face off against Blackjack’s gang because they fear it will cost them their souls to do so. A frustrated Sonny leaves the church and is jumped by Blackjack and Calvin, who beat him unconscious.
The next morning, a battered Sonny straps on his guns and prepares to face Blackjack’s gang alone. The townspeople are beckoned by the church bells to come to church, and most do so. Hickock, Holliday, James, and Billy The Kid all join Sonny after being inspired by his willingness to die to protect Rose. Blackjack and his gang attack and a massive shootout erupts. Blackjack’s gang is dispatched, but Calvin manages to shoot and kill Sonny before being killed. Sonny, despite being fatally wounded, doesn’t feel pain or drop dead. Hickock welcomes him to Refuge, realizing that Sonny has earned his second chance. Hickock finally shoots and kills Blackjack before the Gatekeeper arrives to usher them away.
The men all follow The Gatekeeper to the pit to be cast in, but before they can be condemned The Driver appears in the mysterious stagecoach. The Driver tells them that by sacrificing their lives and second chances to protect the others they have secured their place in Heaven. The men all board except Sonny, who asks to stay behind in Refuge with Rose. Hickock hands Sonny his badge, making him the new Sheriff. The Driver tells Sonny that his seat on the coach will be ready whenever he wants it before riding off toward a bright light with the men.
- Sam Shepard as Sheriff Forrest/Wild Bill Hickok
- Eric Roberts as Blackjack Britton
- Randy Quaid as Doc Woods/Doc Holliday
- Peter Stormare as Cavin Guthrie
- Brad Rowe as Leon “Sonny” Miller
- Donnie Wahlberg as Deputy Glen/Billy The Kid
- J. D. Souther as Brooks/Jesse James
- Amelia Heinle as Rose/Betty McCullough
- Shannon Kenny as Ivy/Dolly Sloan
- John Dennis Johnston as Lamb/“Lefty” Slade
- Saginaw Grant as the Gatekeeper
- R.G. Armstrong as the Stagecoach Driver
During the course of the film, the characters state that Sheriff Forrest/Wild Bill has been in the town of Refuge the longest. In fact, they claim him to have been there 10 years. Wild Bill was shot, and killed on August 2, 1876, which would therefore have made the events in the film take place in 1886. Billy the Kid was killed on July 14, 1881, and Jesse James was killed on April 3, 1882. Thereby making their appearance in the film historically accurate. However, Doc Holliday didn’t die until November 8, 1887. Therefore, he could not have been in the town of Refuge during the time that the film would have taken place.
During the course of the movie, the townspeople also acknowledge Deputy Glen/Billy the Kid as the newest town resident (prior to the arrival of Ivy/Dolly Sloan). However, seeing as how Billy died in 1881, and Jesse James in 1882, Brooks/Jesse should be the newest town resident.
- Humphreys, Keigh (18 September 2015). “Weekend Film Recommendation ***With Interview of Star Brad Rowe***: Purgatory”. Washington Monthly. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Paul Green (25 February 2016). Encyclopedia of Weird Westerns: Supernatural and Science Fiction Elements in Novels, Pulps, Comics, Films, Television and Games, 2d ed. McFarland. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-4766-2402-0.