The plot of Murder at Yellowstone City in brief
Gold. It can kill a person, as you already know if you’ve seen the Zach Efron film Gold, aptly titled “Gold.” In the book Murder at Yellowstone City, several people are killed after Robert Dunnigan, a prospector, tells the city about the gold he found.
Dunnigan is the first person to be killed. Cicero, a former slave who just rode into town, is the prime suspect. The sheriff puts him in jail for the crime, but it soon becomes clear he has the wrong person.
Then who killed Dunnigan and the other people who died in Yellowstone City? And will the sheriff find out who the killer is? Let’s pay more attention to the film.
How does the movie start?
When Robert Dunnigan’s explosives reveal the location of a gold mine, the film begins with a bang. He is thrown into the air. Cicero, on his way to Yellowstone City, sees this happening.
After telling his wife Emma that he found gold, Robert goes to the nearby town of Yellowstone City to tell the people there about his find, promising them lots of money.
Not long after, Cicero comes to town, but some locals are suspicious of this newcomer.
After leaving his horse with Violet, the local stable hand, Cicero goes to the saloon for a drink. He and Edgar, the owner of the salon, get along because they both love Shakespeare.
Life is quiet for a while, but when Robert is killed on his way home from the local brothel, the sheriff arrests his prime suspect.
Who does the sheriff put behind bars?
When Robert’s body is found, the sheriff Thaddeus Murphy asks the pastor to build a coffin and organize a funeral. Then the sheriff goes to Cicero’s boarding house and arrests him for killing the prospector. Afterwards he tells Cicero that he will be hanged if he doesn’t tell the whole city what he has done.
Violet arrives to tell the sheriff that his prisoner Cicero could not have committed the crime that happened outside of town because his horse never left the stables.
Violet doesn’t matter to the sheriff, so Cicero stays in his cell. Later, Alice, the pastor’s wife, visits the poor stranger and he tells her about his life. We learn that he has no family and that the character in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar gave him the idea for his name.
Alice cannot give Cicero all the works of Shakespeare, but she has a Bible, which she leaves with him before returning to her husband.
People think that Cicero killed the gold hunter
Isabel, who was in love with Robert and worked as a prostitute, believes that Cicero may have killed her lover. Some of the other women she hangs out with also think he’s guilty.
But Alice believes he is not guilty, and she tells her husband so when she tells him that she met Cicero.
Violet also believes he’s innocent, and when she finds evidence that something else caused Robert’s death, she’s almost certain she’s right.
Where does she find it?
After Robert died, his wife Emma moved to the city where she got a place to sleep and safety. Emma is told by the sheriff that the person who killed her husband will pay for what he did. But despite her sadness, she seems more interested in who her husband might have slept with, and asks the sheriff to call Roberts “darling.”
Violet goes to the woman while Emma is in town and finds a letter in her cabin. It looks like Emma’s love interest wrote it.
So could Emma’s lover have committed Robert’s murder to get Robert out of the way? It’s possible, and Violet gives Thaddeus the note, believing it might have something to do with the crime.
The pastor goes to Cicero’s house and asks if he killed Robert. Cicero says he is not guilty.
Emma is then picked up by the pastor and the sheriff. Emma tells them that she wants to leave town and start over somewhere else.
After this meeting, Thaddeus shows the letter to the Sheriff and says that Cicero does not appear to be a murderer. But the sheriff still isn’t ready to let the man out of jail. This is partly because he made a mistake years ago when he released another prisoner who later killed his wife.
When the pastor leaves, the sheriff tells his son Jimmy, who works part-time as a deputy, about the love letter and tells Jimmy to take care of it.
Is the killer still out there?
Yes! Violet is the next person to die when the killer cuts her throat. We don’t find out how, but Cicero comes out of his cell at the same time, and of course the sheriff thinks he killed Violet. As the sheriff and his men chase after Cicero, a chase begins. Cicero is shot after jumping from his horse into a tree, but not before he can hide.
When the sheriff and his men go the wrong way, Cicero makes his way back to town and to the church, where Thaddeus and Alice tend to him.
When Thaddeus removed the bullet from Cicero’s body, he thought it couldn’t be the same one that killed Robert. To prove this, he digs up the prospector’s body, which confirms what he already thought.
At the same time, Jimmy goes to the brothel and pays Isabel to have sex with him. He kills her when her back is turned to him because he has more on his mind than sexual desire. Jimmy is the real killer, that’s clear now.
Why did people kill each other?
We find out that Jimmy loved Emma and that Isabel asked him to kill Isabel. Emma probably told him to kill Isabel because she found out the woman slept with Emma’s husband.
We also find out that Robert was killed by Jimmy and that Emma probably asked him to so they could live together.
When it comes to poor Violet, Jimmy probably killed her because she found evidence.
What is Cicero doing?
The sheriff and his men continue to search for Cicero until they find him at the pastor’s house.
When Thaddeus refuses to give up Cicero, a fight ensues and several of the sheriff’s men are killed.
As the fight continues, Cicero and Alice are able to escape on Cicero’s horse while Alice fires at the men pursuing them.
They get to a booth that’s supposed to be a safe place, but Jimmy and another sheriff’s man find them there.
Another shootout ensues, but when Cicero runs out of bullets, it looks like his end is near. He kills one of the men, but Jimmy keeps shooting at him. But Thaddeus arrives just in time, shoots Jimmy and then ties him up.
Will the sheriff find out who killed the person?
They go to the sheriff’s office to tell him about Jimmy.
Jimmy says he’s innocent, but when the sheriff calls Emma into his office, it’s revealed that she and Jimmy worked together to kill someone because she couldn’t put all the blame on Jimmy.
Emma loses her temper and shoots the sheriff. When Jimmy tries to help his father, Thaddeus starts shooting and kills him.
Jimmy dies in his father’s arms, and while we don’t see it, it’s likely that his injured father died soon after.
Thaddeus and Alice go outside to find Emma who has now escaped. Emma is about to shoot Thaddeus when Alice starts shooting, killing her.
As the movie ends, Thaddeus and Alice say they will rebuild and improve the city. As they discuss what to do next, Cicero mounts his horse and rides away from the city, which has caused him more trouble than he could have imagined.
Yellowstone City is losing population. But when local prospector Dunnigan (Zach McGowan) finds gold, things could get better. However, this happiness does not last long as he is soon killed leaving the town with a mystery to solve. Sheriff Ambrose (Gabriel Byrne) doesn’t try to hide how racist he is when he immediately blames the murder on visitor and now free man Cicero (Isaiah Mustafa), even though the only hard evidence is that Cicero had some gold. Murder in Yellowstone City doesn’t address that racism directly, and it seems like the film isn’t interested in exploring complicated issues from the period. But a gay couple is shown in a way that makes no sense and gets nowhere.
When screenwriter Eric Belgau wrote Murder at Yellowstone City, he had a lot on his mind. He was determined to take all of his characters seriously and give them a story, even if it meant making the film longer than was necessary for such a simple plot (I assure you, you can predict pretty early on who the killer is). Normally that would be a good thing, but as you can see the script doesn’t do anything interesting with its themes, and the characters are still subpar and have almost no personality no matter how much backstory is given.