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Ending of Dead for a Dollar Explained

The ending of Dead for a Dollar is complicated and stimulating. It ties together the film’s themes of justice, morality, and revenge.

Dead for a Dollar, directed by Walter Hill, is a Western thriller set in 1897. The story follows Max Borlund, a bounty hunter, on a mission to find a missing woman. The film’s ending is dramatic and leaves viewers with much to ponder.

Plot Summary Leading to the Ending

Max Borlund, played by Christoph Waltz, is hired by Martin Kidd to find his wife, Rachel. She is believed to have been kidnapped by an army deserter, Elijah Jones. As Borlund investigates, he learns that Rachel may have left willingly with Jones. This complicates his mission. Along the way, Borlund encounters Joe Cribbens, an old enemy recently released from prison.

The story takes place in the remote southern tip of Mexico. Here, local gangster Tiberio Vargas rules. The film’s climax occurs in this lawless land, where money and death are closely linked.

The Ending Explained

The ending features several confrontations. Borlund tracks down Rachel and Jones in Vargas’s domain. The final showdown involves Borlund, Cribbens, Vargas, and other key characters. Each has their own motivations and stakes in the outcome.

Who Killed Tiberio?

A central question is who kills Tiberio Vargas. In the climactic battle, Vargas dies, but the film leaves it unclear who delivers the fatal blow. This adds tension and highlights the chaotic world the characters inhabit.

Joe Cribbens’ Revenge

Joe Cribbens seeks revenge against Borlund. However, the film does not provide a straightforward resolution. Cribbens’ actions are driven by a mix of vengeance and survival. This reflects the film’s nuanced portrayal of its characters.

Rachel’s Fate

Rachel Kidd’s storyline is resolved in the ending. Her decision to leave her husband and the events that follow highlight themes of autonomy and agency. Rachel’s fate is tied to the broader narrative of justice and retribution. Her character arc adds depth to the film’s themes.

Thematic Elements

The film explores justice and morality in a lawless world. Characters act based on personal codes of honor and survival. The ending reinforces these themes, showing how characters’ fates are shaped by their actions.

The Cost of Revenge

Revenge is a central theme, especially in the relationship between Borlund and Cribbens. The ending shows the destructive nature of vengeance. Both characters must face the consequences of their past actions. The film’s title suggests that revenge often comes at a high cost.

Autonomy and Agency

Rachel Kidd’s story highlights autonomy and agency, especially in the context of gender dynamics in the late 19th century. Her decision to leave her husband reflects her struggle for independence. The ending underscores the importance of personal agency.

Critical Reception

The film has received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 53% approval rating based on 51 reviews. The consensus is that the film should have higher entertainment value given its cast and director (Wikipedia).

Metacritic gives the film a score of 61 out of 100, indicating “generally favorable” reviews (Wikipedia).

Positive Reviews

Some critics praise the film for its adherence to classic Western tropes and thematic depth. A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls it a “master class in B-movie craft”, highlighting Walter Hill’s direction and the film’s storytelling (The New York Times).

Negative Reviews

Other critics are less favorable. They point to the film’s predictable plot and underdeveloped characters. TheWrap criticizes the film for its “shoddy storyline” and “flatly lit, shallow-focus visual scheme” (TheWrap).


Dead for a Dollar evokes strong reactions. Its ending, with its confrontations and resolutions, explores justice, morality, and revenge. While the film has flaws, it offers a compelling narrative and thematic depth. The critical reception reflects its polarizing nature. Some praise its craftsmanship, while others criticize its execution. Ultimately, the film invites viewers to grapple with its complicated characters and moral ambiguities, making it a stimulating experience.

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