Hear Me Roar

Moviemakers love to give women guns nowadays. That may sound like empowerment, but you've got to ask yourself one question: is Hollywood interested in the women or the guns? In ""The Quick and the Dead,'' Sharon Stone looks fabulous in a dust coat and spurs. But the role reversal at the heart of Sam Raimi's uneven movie is just a gimmick; a script doctor could have turned this into a Kevin Costner vehicle in 15 minutes. Stone's character, a sullen gunslinger named Ellen, rides into a town called Redemption and enters a quick-draw competition. Among her ornery foes are the town's kingpin, Herod (Gene Hackman, in his familiar evil-bastard mode), and his blustery illegitimate son, Kid (Leonardo DiCaprio, working his usual minor miracles). ""The Quick'' is just a simple story of revenge. Still, it takes Raimi forever to explain the facts of the case: namely, that Herod terrorized Ellen's family once upon a time in the West. Early on, ""The Quick'' is damnably slow. But Stone gives a nice, brooding performance -- a tip of the cowboy hat to ""Unforgiven.'' And Raimi, who also directed ""Darkman,'' keeps the dark humor and the arty shots coming. (The cameramen must have been on Dramamine.) In the end, this Western is serviceable enough. Herod says if you're born bad, you're bad forever. ""The Quick'' was born bad, but it got better.

Jeff Giles

BOYS ON THE SIDE

Like a lot of women out there, Jane (Whoopi Goldberg), Robin (Mary-Louise Parker) and Holly (Drew Barrymore) really want to be Thelma and Louise. They know their lives are dulland confining, so they hit the road in search of liberation, bags packed with the requisite cute sunglasses, soul tunes and toenail polish. ""Boys on the Side'' owes such a debt to ""Thelma & Louise'' thatit includes a subplot about an unintentional murder the cops will never believe was self-defense; when Whoopi says, ""I am not going over a cliff for you two,'' it's straight homage. Whoopi approaches her role of feisty, lovelorn blues singer with unusual understatement, while Parker is quite solid as a repressed real-estate agent with a dark secret. Barrymore just seems adorable. But director Herbert Ross (""The Goodbye Girl,'' ""Steel Magnolias'') istoo old-school Hollywood to take the risks ""Boys on the Side'' needs. Once the filmdevolves into teary hospital scenes and courtroom shtik, you might pine for Thelmaand Louise's daring road to oblivion.

Karen Schoemer