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Directed by Uli Edel
Produced by Dan Schneider
Written by Gordon T. Dawson
Starring Sam Shepard
Eric Roberts
Donnie Wahlberg
Peter Stormare
Music by Brad Fiedel
Distributed by TNT
Running time 94 min.
Country USA
Language English

Purgatory is a 1999 western fantasy film directed by Uli Edel.



An outlaw band led by Blackjack Britton (Eric Roberts) and second man Cavin Guthrie (Peter Stormare) robs a bank. A woman is shot and dies in the arms of Sonny, a young member of the gang who is the lookout and appears to still have a conscience. The gang flees and is pursued by a posse. After passing through a dust storm they see and enter a tunnel, emerging at the other end into verdant pastures around the town of Refuge.

In this town no one carries a gun, drinks, or swears.

Sonny seems to think he has seen some of the residents before, but is unable to remember where. He becomes very puzzled when a stagecoach arrives at night with a woman who is identical to the one who died in his arms when they robbed the bank. Meanwhile the rest of the outlaw gang begin to cause mayhem and threaten the destruction of the town but the men of Refuge seem unwilling to resist them. At one point a young woman, who has become the object of Sonny's love, is threatened by the gang and he is seen by the men of Refuge as willing to lay down his life to save her.

Sonny finds out that the town of Refuge is actually a kind of purgatory and the faces that he thought he recognized were in fact well known people such as Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James and Billy the Kid, all of whom had previously died but who must now spend ten years in Refuge before being admitted into Heaven. During this time they must avoid all violence and resist the temptations they succumbed to in life. The penalty is to enter Hell if they fail. In fact, the movie shows a farmer being sent to Hell for murdering one of Blackjack's henchmen when he caused wanton destruction in his garden. In particular, Wild Bill Hickok - the current sheriff - has only 24 hours to go until his ten year sentence is up, explaining as to why there was no resistance to the gang.

Inspired by the example Sonny has set, the townspeople nonetheless decide to take up arms to save the town rather than see evil triumph, even though this apparently means they abandon all hope of heaven. The evil outlaws who had viewed the men of the town as cowards are now amazed to confront these famous names. Though outnumbered, the men of Refuge triumph after a classic shoot-out during which Sonny is mortally wounded and in turn becomes a resident of Refuge; Blackjack and his men are all thrown into Hell.

The men of Refuge are now convinced they will also be condemned to Hell. As they are led away by the gatekeeper, a stagecoach (R.G. Armstrong) arrives from Heaven. He explains to them that whilst the Creator is tough he was not blind to what they had done in standing up to evil; rather than being condemned to Hell they will be taken to Heaven. Sonny asks to remain in Refuge, in order to be with the woman he loves. Wild Bill gives Sonny the sheriff's star and bids him farewell. The final scene is the stagecoach being bathed in light as it approaches Heaven.



  • At the lake where Sonny and Rose converse, an error/inconsistency can be seen with Rose's dress. Depending on the angle of the shot her dress is either brown or blue.
  • All of the Purgatory residents' assumed names are nature-based: Forest, Glen, Ivy, Rose, Woods, Lamb.
  • Randy Quaid's brother Dennis played Doc Holliday in the movie Wyatt Earp a few years earlier.
  • Wild Bill Hickok died on August 2nd, 1876 and since his ten years is almost up this places the time of the movie at late July and early August, 1886. However, Doc Holliday didn't die until November 8th, 1887, more than a year after the events in the movie.

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