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Bread and Circuses


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Drama/Western, 2011, 43 min.

Synopsis In Cheyenne territory, Chief Many Horses (Wes Studi) prepares Pawnee Killer (Gerald Auger) for the Sun Dance ceremony. With long leather straps attached from his chest to a lone tree, Pawnee Killer must spend a full day staring at the sun and praying. If successful, a vision will be granted him. Pawnee Killer collapses after completing the ceremony, telling Chief Many Horses that he was blessed with a vision of the "great steel beast," adding "''I killed it''." Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan) and Joseph (Eddie Spears) visit Chief Many Horses to ask him to come to Hell on Wheels and discuss peace. The chief will agree, only if Joseph requests his presence, which he does.Back in town, Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) emerges from his Pullman coach. Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) informs him that the workers are not happy with not being paid lately. Durant orders him to only pay the walking bosses to keep the rest of the workers quiet. Later at the work site, Cullen convenes with the walking bosses to inform them of the pay situation. Elam (Common) joins the group to declare himself a walking boss of the freedmen. He gets upset with the situation and walks off the job, daring Cullen to make him work. A fight breaks out between them. Durant orders them to stop, announcing to whole crew that the payroll is on its way. He proposes to Cullen and Elam that they settle their differences in a public fight that evening. Durant, meanwhile, tells Lily (Dominique McElligott) that, without her deceased husband Robert's survey maps, he will be considered a failure and Robert won't be thought of at all. She later accuses Durant of engineering the fight to distract his workers until they can be paid. He scoffs at her opinion of him. She then decides to tell him that she has Robert's maps, which detail the route through the Rocky Mountains and beyond. Durant is excited at the news, until she declines to reveal the maps' location. "''How much?''" he asks. "''What Robert is owed''," she says.Sean (Ben Esler) and Mickey (Phil Burke) McGinness' magic-lantern business has money trouble as well, with The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl). He cuts their tents rope supports, collapsing their place of business. Before the arranged fight, Sean is sold "enough peppers to make a Mexican cry." Mickey helps Cullen prepare and tells him Sean has bet all their money on him. The fight begins and, at first, Cullen gets the best of Elam. However, between rounds, Psalms (Dohn Norwood) motivates Elam, comparing Cullen to a former slave master who mistreated Elam. Cullen gets beaten down to the floor. As Mickey tries to raise Cullen, he notices Sean whisper to Psalms and slip something to him. The fight resumes. Elam lands a punch to Cullen's eyes. This staggers his opponent, blurring his vision. Elam eventually wins the fight. Outside, Sean shows Mickey at sizable wad of money. Seeing his brothers confusion, he explains that he bet everything on Elam, rather than Cullen. Mickey says that he cheated and that Cullen was their only friend. Sean disagrees - money is his only friend. In the saloon, Lily sets a bucket of water at Cullen's head. He washes his eyes, then licks the residue from his fingers. He laughs at the peppery taste. The next morning in his tent, Cullen hands out payment bags to the walking bosses. Elam enters and again identifies himself as the freedmen crews walking boss. Cullen offers Elam his money bag, but still clutches it when Elam tries to take it. He finally releases it to him, after they stare at each other.

Directed by Adam Davidson  

Starring James D. Hopkin, Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common, Dominique McElligott, more...

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