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The Hard Ride

Log Line
Legendary lawmen and friends take on a gang of outlaws.

Script Info
Script Type: Feature
Genre: Western
Est. Budget: Less than $15M

Screenplay Synopsis
Open on two disheveled riders approaching fast at a full run across an open expanse of rolling prairie, Wild Bill and California Joe. The frontier scouts flee for their lives from a small band of renegade Kiowa Indians in close pursuit, an empty saddle horse blows hard alongside, the Kiowa leader shakes a bloody scalp high above, shouts for the ‘long hairs’ to turn and fight. Wild Bill announces that he's done scouting, he wants to get away from the senseless killings and accepts the new position of Sheriff in neighboring Hays City. The frontier town is well known as "the cross roads to hell", and soon Wild Bill is forced into a gunfight with two cavalry soldiers, killing both men. The death of the youngest will come back to haunt him later in Deadwood. He moves on to Abilene, Kansas, and now as town Marshal, views a riding and shooting exhibition by the beautiful and charming Agnes Lake, a widow and Wild West show performer. They fall for each other and Wild Bill promises to quit wearing a lawman's badge, then learns Agnes shot and killed her first husband while performing, which may not have been an accident. Wild Bill tells Agnes he wants to shed his image as a man-killer, but not before he confronts outlaw John Wesley Hardin, the psychopathic murderer.

Wild Bill briefly joins Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack on the Eastern stage. The fearless lawman is challenged as an actor, his time with Cody's group will be uncomfortable and short. He quits and asks Agnes to marry him, which she does, but their time together will be unfulfilled, as gold is soon discovered in the Black Hills. Agnes accepts her fate and succeeds to Wild Bill's wishes to leave at once for the gold rush in Deadwood. California Joe rejoins him, and the two former scouts team up with Charlie Utter and his younger brother Steve's wagon train departing for Deadwood. Calamity Jane joins the group shortly after it leaves Cheyenne. This young, brash, and bold temptress of the open plains tries to seduce Wild Bill. Events in Deadwood propel Wild Bill against Montana tough Johnny Varnes and gunman Tim Brady. Brady kills Steve Utter, who is now Calamity's love interest. Jack McCall becomes an unwillingly participant in Varnes attempts to get rid of Wild Bill, a potential threat as the town’s first lawman. We soon learn that the young soldier killed in Hays City by Wild Bill was Varnes' son. When McCall is challenged by Varnes to become a real man and show courage, he is compelled to take action and kills Wild Bill after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Wild Bill by Brady and some of his gunmen.

McCall flees Deadwood to Laramie City with Varnes, Brady, and the other members of their outlaw group. California Joe, with the help of Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane, diligently follow the ruthless gang to Laramie City. A wild and climatic shootout ensues and Varnes and his gang are decimated. McCall is intentionally spared the barrage of gunfire, and is promptly arrested for Wild Bill's murder, then tried -- and hanged, as California Joe and Calamity Jane deliver a powerful ending of frontier style justice to this fast-paced action Western.