Basically, the movie is about a famous "quick draw" contest in a dusty little western town with no other apparent reason for existing. There are LOTS of great contests.
Sharon Stone doesn't have to do anything but look cool (and sexy when she's under all those furs). Gene Hackman is virtually the same character he played in UNFORGIVEN, but more one-dimensional...on purpose. DiCaprio is a hoot (try to remember him before you saw TITANIC and he got overexposed...he was really a fun actor). An unknown Russell Crowe is moody and handsome, and one gets just a tiny glimpse of the full-fledged "quiet, tortured hero" he would become with GLADIATOR. Lance Henrickson is funny, and all the other characters are totally over the top. The plot is so simple and straightforward, yet the movie is a lot of fun. Don't see this movie as an example of a great western...see it if you want to enjoy some great actors having fun with a bit of good-looking fluff. I've seen the movie three times now over the past 6 years...and I enjoy my 95 minutes every time.
She runs across a small western hamlet where the undertaker is the busiest man in town. Herrod (Gene Hackman) has the town in an iron grip. As a coincidence, Herrod is the leader of said gang. To top it all off there is a gunfighters tournament with a crazy assortment of characters dueling to the death. The supporting cast is a who's-who of before-they-were-stars. Gary Sinise, pre-Lt. Dan, as Ellen's father. Leonardo DiCaprio, pre-Titanic, as "The Kid". Russell Crowe, pre mug-shot, as the preacher (!).
I guess Stone's performance wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't directly ripped from Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name Trilogy. Also, Crowe seems to be playing the same stoic put-upon character and doing a better job of it. Lance Henrikson is the main standout as "Ace". He puts an ace in his deck for every man he kills. That's pretty cool. I was hoping for him to make the finals, but it was not to be.
If you like traditional westerns this probably isn't for you. If you like Sam Raimi's loopy direction (you can see through the bullet hole in someone's skull at one point) you'll want to pick this one up. If you're looking to see what a lot of these actors were doing before they "made it" you could do a lot worse.
Recommended for fans of quirky movies, but not for fans of traditional westerns.