Heaven's Gate review

Reassessing the budget-busting epic

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Notorious as the movie that shot United Artists down in flames and sank the career of director Michael Cimino, 1980’s Heaven’s Gate ran spectacularly over-budget and opened to some of the harshest reviews ever. (“An unqualified disaster,” said The New York Times).

A grandiose Western based on the Johnson County War of 1892, when cattle barons brought in mercenaries to massacre immigrant settlers, it suffers badly from narrative incoherence.

But there’s a grand romantic sweep to the action (enacted by a solid cast including Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken and Isabelle Huppert), the set-pieces are majestic and its disenchanted view of the American frontier myth still rings ominously true.

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