Heaven’s Gate is the 1980 western about the Johnson County War. James Averill is the sheriff of Johnson County; he comes from a rich background. At a board meeting, the Wyoming Stock Growers Associating writes a “death list” of immigrants. They want to kill them so they can take the land for themselves. The barons hire Nate Champion and his gang to do the job. Averill also has a relationship with the brothel owner Ella Watson, whom Nate also has feelings for. The sheriff gets a copy of the death list and reads it to the settlers. What will they do now that they know the Association’s plans?
Although the movie is competently made, it has no heart. Cimino seems to be more concerned about showing everybody what a great artist he is rather than telling a story. The only part that has any emotional warmth is James’ relationship with Ella. It also takes too many creative liberties with the historical event and turns Nate Champion into a bad guy. While it’s not completely unwatchable, audiences may be wishing that the film was better. Averill isn’t the most compelling protagonist since he doesn’t do very much to help the immigrants after bringing them the death list. Honolulu art film fans may want to watch a different movie.
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