Four women escape life at a brothel and near-hanging with hopes of running their own business free from the oppressive male figures they've always known. Cody Zamora (Madeline Stowe), a tough-talking prostitute, shoots a respected colonel after he'd fired his gun at her and man-handled her friend Anita (Mary Stuart Masterson) far beyond her consent. As punishment, the falsely righteous town-folk move to hang Cody for her crime. Eileen (Andie MacDowell) and Lilly (Drew Barrymore) team up with Anita to rescue Cody just as she's about to be hanged.
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The "bad girls" go on the run, and eventually meet Joshua McCoy (Dermot Mulroney), a young prospector of few words. He is one of two good men depicted in the film, and it is obvious that he has a strong affection for Cody from the start. However, Cody, not interested in sentiment, drives him away but not before finding out that his goal is to hunt down a man named Frank Jarrett (Robert Loggia) for killing his father. Cody knows Frank and never wants to lay eyes on him again as he is the man who forced her into prostitution after her mother died. After Joshua's departure, the ladies decide that they want to claim the stake in Oregon territory Anita's husband left her and build a saw mill. They pause, realizing they'll need money for this little venture. Cody tells the them she has over twelve thousand dollars in a bank in Agua Dulce, TX. They set out to retrieve the money, while Pinkerton Detectives have been set on their trail by the colonel's wife.
Cody, dressed to play the part of a respectable woman, withdraws all of her money and closes her account in Agua Dulce. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to Cody, the Pinkertons have arrived in town. Her friends try to warn her, but before anything can happen with the Pinkertons, Cody's former lover, Kid Jarrett (James Russo), appears to rob the bank. He cleans the place out but let's Cody keep her money, giving her a rough kiss to punctuate his generosity before heading outside. Soon, a gun-fight breaks out between Kid Jarrett's gang, the Pinkertons and the law of the town. The girls try to escape without getting captured by the Pinkertons or the sheriff. Then Kid Jarrett rides up as Cody unties her horse and adeptly removes the twelve thousand dollars (he so graciously let her keep seconds earlier) from her dress. Furious, Cody, lacking control within the gun-slinging chaos, has no choice but to flee with her friends.
They all manage to escape, except for Eileen, who has proven to be the most lady-like of the bunch and, therefore, is completely unable to calm her horse down long enough to get on top of it. Later, around a lonely fire, Cody, Lilly and Anita decide they need to find Eileen and win back Cody's money. Cody tells them they are to get the money first while Lilly wants Eileen back first. Lilly pretends to obey Cody when she insists she stay put and wait but soon talks Anita into going with her to rescue Eileen after Cody leaves to confront Kid's gang. Eileen meanwhile falls for the gentle William Tucker, who's recently been deputized to watch Eileen while the real law fans out to find Kid.
Cody's trip to the Jarretts' is not the best idea as she is brutalized by Kid and his gang then eventually let go. Joshua McCoy finds her and comforts her as she heals. After rescuing Eileen, the girls find Cody with McCoy weaker than they've ever known her to be and make a plan to get her money back. Somehow, Lilly ends up in the clutches of the Jarrett bunch next, but the girls rescue her quickly. During the final showdown, Joshua saves Cody from being shot but dies in her arms as he's shot in the back. In the end, Cody has her money back and her friends are safe. Eileen chooses to stay with William on his ranch and settle into a life more suited to her while the others head off to find their future in Oregon. As the credits roll, we see the bad girls riding across the horizon with power and determination while the bumbling Pinkerton Detectives ask a drunk old man if he'd seen Cody Zamora, and we know they've won.
Best part of story, including ending:
The movie reflects a strong sense of sisterhood against a backdrop that isn't usual for a female empowerment film. I think the characters could have been developed more and that the plot could have been stronger. It seems as if the filmmakers tried to throw in every Western cliche and plot-line into the movie rather than attempting to create a solid story. Aside from that, it is a fun movie in its way and has a really great Western film score.
Best scene in story:
In the end, Cody and her friends tell Eileen goodbye. Eileen hugs Lilly affectionately then sends the others on their way. The emotional moment is broken when we see the Pinkertons looking for Cody. Soon, the girls gallop across the horizon and we know that they are going to be all right.
Opinion about the main character:
Cody is a bit selfish at times. I think she is likely haunted by her past, but the screenplay doesn't delve far enough into her psyche for us to really play that out with her. I also don't see much of a character arc with Cody. She doesn't really change all that much by the end of the movie.