‘Dead For A Dollar’ Ending, Explained: Who Killed Tiberio? Did Joe Cribbens Take Revenge on Borlund?


Set in 1897, Water Hill’s latest western thriller, “Dead for a Dollar,” portrays a group of criminals in the remote southern tip of Mexico. The story revolves around a bounty hunter, Max Borlund (played by Christoph Waltz), who is entrusted by a wealthy businessman Martin Kidd (played by Hamish Linklater) to locate his wife, who has been abducted. However, whether she had been actually kidnapped, or eloped with an army deserter, is what Borlund has to find out in this expedition. So, let’s check out how challenging his voyage has been.

Spoilers Ahead

Who Was Joe Cribbens? Why Was He Arrested?

The 20th century was about to begin, and in Mexico, people of color were still subjected to oppression, and the women being the most maltreated. The film opens in that era of 1897 in a desolate meadow in Mexico, where two people are crossing the route on their horses. The scene then changes to Albuquerque, New Mexico Territory, where a shooter had just invaded a motel, and shortly after, gunshots broke out. The scene changes once more to Territorial Prison, where the same shooter, Max Borlund, goes to see Joe Cribbens (played by Willem Dafoe), one of the inmates there. However, it doesn’t appear to be a friendly visit. Joe Cribbens, the prisoner, is probably somewhat of Borlund’s nemesis. Joe referred to him as a bounty hunter who had recently killed Frank Ledbetter, an acquaintance of his. Their tense chat made it clear that Joe was in jail because of Borlund. Joe also clarified that he would be free within the next week, which was the trigger point for Borlund. He had learned from the rumors that Joe would kill him once he was out of the cell. So, he warned him against it. Joe responded by assuring him that he had no such plans.

Max Borlund is a rough and tough bounty hunter who had captured Joe for a bank robbery and horse theft. Max worked as a representative of the United States government. Joe may be one of the criminals he had formerly hunted, but he is worried that following his release, Joe will seek revenge on him. On the other hand, Joe Cribbens, as a cunning adversary, conversed with his visitor while maintaining a very relaxed expression on his face. He was jailed for carrying out a heist and killing several people who had attempted to kill him first. When Borlund visited him, he didn’t appear to be upset or seeking revenge; instead, he only wanted to be released from prison so he could travel to Mexico to play cards and have a chill time with the senoritas. Despite all his claims, he doesn’t come off as someone who could be trusted. His eyes had the thug’s glint. Borlund warned him twice not to follow him and left.

Who is Rachel Kidd? Was She Abducted By Elijah?

In the interim, Borlund met the army captain, who introduced him to a prominent businessman named Martin Kidd. He informed him that his wife, Rachel Kidd (played by Rachel Brosnahan), had been abducted by a fugitive soldier named Elijah Jones (played by Brandon Scott). He received a ransom demand, but he chose to pay Borlund rather than give the money directly to the criminal to get his wife back. Martin paid him 500 dollars in advance and insisted on the investigation because the married couple’s reputations were at stake. He told Borlund to proceed accordingly. The army captain summoned Sergeant Poe, who would accompany Borlund on the expedition. They started to proceed in the direction of the southern border in an effort to save Kidd’s wife. In the wilderness of Roca Rosa in Mexico’s Estado Chihuahua, Borlund discovered information on things he could never anticipate. Poe turned out to be Elijah’s friend, who believed that Elijah was too decent to kidnap Martin’s wife. According to Poe, Rachel Kidd had eloped with him consensually. In the expectation that Poe might join him later, Elijah had given him a map. Borlund, however, doesn’t believe Poe, thinking he might be defending his friend. Poe informed him that the fugitives could seek refuge at the cabin of an American named Hannon. Borlund knew Hannon pretty well. Hannon was accused of bank robbery in El Paso and was a murderer’s accomplice. Most likely, he was an accomplice of Joe Cribbens, as both of them were from Texas and accused of the same crime.

Sergeant Poe (played by Warren Burke) is a chatty and outgoing individual. He looked upbeat and enjoyed chit-chatting even when it was not required, while his traveling companion was more somber. Borlund disliked socializing with people outside of work. Therefore, Poe had to bring up Elijah as a matter of discussion.

Who Was Tiberio? What Deal Did Elijah and Rachel Make With Him?

Meanwhile, the spotlight shines on Rachel Kidd and Elijah, who were staying in Hannon’s cabin. Elijah tried to hold her as she was attempting to shoot her target with a little gun, but she brushed his hand away. She didn’t appear to be in a relationship with Elijah, or at least she didn’t like flaunting it. Rachel practiced shooting to protect herself in this dangerous country. Romero, a worker under Senor Tiberio (played by Benjamin Bratt), a criminal gangster, showed up at their residence later in the evening. He disclosed that Hannon had agreed to cover Tiberio’s gambling debt with $5,000 of Rachel’s ransom money in return for their safe transport to Cuba. When Hannon’s treachery was caught, Elijah got enraged. Hannon belittled Rachel by asserting that he needed money for the expenses he bore for them. Rachel gave him a tight slap on his face for his humiliating behavior. Romero demanded that they bring Rachel and Elijah to Veracruz securely in exchange for $5,000 paid to Tiberio. Elijah concurred, but Rachel had some internal turmoil about being involved with a gangster. They both agreed to the deal with Tiberio. Meanwhile, Senor Tiberio and his men met Borlund and Poe. In Spanish, Tiberio demanded that they pay rent for the land and water they were using, because all of this, according to Tiberio, was his property. When Senor Palmer, Tiberio’s companion from London, tried to voice his viewpoint, Borlund ignored him. Even Poe was standing there aiming a rifle at them. Seeing Borlund and Poe’s bravery, Tiberio could not attack them. He told Borlund that if he found the gold, he would give half of it to Tiberio. After Tiberio’s departure, Borlund went on with his quest. They eventually arrived at Hannon’s place. Hannon grew infuriated when Borlund instructed them to surrender and aimed a pistol at Rachel, so Borlund had to shoot him to death. Poe watched as Elijah buried Hannon’s corpse. As Rachel could not trust Borlund, she pointed her gun at him but refrained from pulling the trigger since Borlund had declared his intention to carry out his duties. She had to submit her gun to Borlund.

How Did Joe Cribbens Get Into Trouble Again?

In the meantime, Joe Cribbens had been released from prison. He had arrived at a motel in Pueblo de Guadalupe and planned to stay there for several weeks. When the owner inquired about his identification, he responded that he was only a gambler who wanted to avoid any sort of trouble. However, troubles have found him. He met Palmer, the business companion of Tiberio, who challenged him in a card game. In gambling, Joe Cribbens considered himself a “card shark”. He knew very well how to solve any problem in this regard. So, he was not unarmed. When Palmer lost to him in a little game of chance, he grabbed a revolver, pointed it at Joe, and threatened to pay him back. At the gunpoint, Joe acted precisely as he always had. He pulled out his own weapon and shot Palmer dead. However, Romero arrived at the motel and warned him about Tiberio. Now Joe seemed a little scared.

What Was Martin Kidd’s True Identity?

Finally, Borlund and the others arrived at the judicial prison in Ciudad de Trinidad Maria. Borlund informed Aragon, the chief magistrate there, that he had brought a fugitive army who had abducted Martin Kidd’s wife. When they decided to put Elijah in the jail cell, he revealed that he had a business affair with Tiberio. However, as they put Elijah in prison, Aragon seemed horrified to hear Tiberio’s name. Tiberio was a powerful and vicious gangster who was even a threat to lawmakers. While Borlund and Rachel arrived at a neighboring motel, Elijah was arrested. Elijah was not even the perpetrator of the act in question; rather, Rachel and Elijah had fled together in this instance. Elijah was incarcerated just for the reason that he was a man of color. Sergeant Poe appeared to be plotting to save his companion, Elijah, in the shadows. However, Borlund got to know the complete story from Rachel. Rachel was a respected woman who was mistreated by her husband. Even though she kept her feelings for Elijah to herself, she secretly harbored resentment at the authorities for having detained her lover. Rachel described how she had been rebellious since a young age. She came close to breaking every social norm that restricted women. She met Martin Kidd and liked his superficial charm. After only four weeks of courting, they were married. After the wedding, Rachel discovered that Martin was really a grabber, a property-thief, and a womanizer. Martin kept Rachel as just his arranged spouse and gave her administrative duties at a school. She grew close to a student, Elijah, and the two of them attempted to flee together. Rachel unmasked her husband’s true identity to Borlund. She told him that once Martin comes here, he would kill her. Borlund realized that Martin was genuinely dishonest. He released Rachel’s pistol as a consequence and left it for her.

Romero visited Borlund on Tiberio’s behalf to discuss about Elijah. Due to a business arrangement Tiberio had with the prisoner, he requested Borlund to release him. Borlund politely declined, admitting that Elijah had committed a crime and was thus not simply to be let free. Borlund became Tiberio’s opponent. On the other hand, when Romero spoke to Joe Cribbens about Borlund, he claimed to know the person, although he clarified that he was not an ally. Joe Cribbens was staying at the hotel when Tiberio arrived. Joe won a game of cards that they both participated in, but Tiberio, an egotistical businessman, offered him a job to finish Borlund. When Joe Cribbens attempted to capture Borlund by holding him at gunpoint, Poe and Rachel managed to confine him. When they scared him into backing off, Joe had no choice but to leave. Joe Cribbens was dismissed by Tiberio after failing to murder Borlund.

‘Dead for a Dollar’ Ending Explained: Who Killed Tiberio? Did Joe Cribbens Take Revenge on Borlund?

In the meantime, Tiberio and his men obstructed Martin Kidd on his way to meet his wife. They appeared to have struck a bargain. However, Martin did not run into his wife when he got to Ciudad. He entered the cell and murdered Elijah, the prisoner. To clear his name from the murder charges, he paid bribes to the jail guards. When Rachel learned of Elijah’s passing, she exacted revenge on her husband by shooting him to death. After all of this, she even attempted suicide, but the presence of a gun in her hand provided her with a sense of power. Instead of committing suicide, she reasoned that she might use it to protect herself. Tiberio finally arrived to seize Rachel Kidd. He and his men entered Trinidad Maria and began firing erratically. In their attempt to capture Rachel, several of his men entered the hotel, but the receptionist came to Rachel’s aid. She murdered those men by shooting them, but in a rush, Rachel’s face was scarred.

However, the pivotal moment was when Joe Cribbens arrived at the scene. After Tiberio had almost murdered everyone, including the magistrate, he was shot dead by Joe Cribbens. He killed Tiberio in order to exact his vengeance on Borlund. He believed Tiberio had ruined his enjoyment of killing his own adversary. Borlund and Joe squared off in classic cowboy fashion, but Joe once more had bad luck and was shot to death by Borlund. Sergeant Poe also had injuries, but they were eventually cured, and he returned to the US army. Since there was no one to testify, Rachel was able to get away with the murder. However, she wore her scar as a badge of honor to protect herself. Rachel changed locations and joined the Suffragette movement in Philadelphia. Max Borlund spent the remainder of his life working for the law as an honorable bounty hunter. However, the titular theme of the movie is its primary focus. Max Borlund was a law-abiding bounty hunter who was honest; nonetheless, instead of knowing the truth, he only performed his duties in order to get rewarded. He was so enamored with the prize in the case of Rachel Kidd that he repeatedly disregarded her cries for aid. He at least understood the real story following Rachel’s revelation. He overlooked the bounty and gave Rachel the rifle so she could protect herself.

Conclusive Criticism

You might be anticipating a lot from Water Hill’s western thriller when it has a backstory including a fight between Mexican gangsters and a bounty hunter and an all-star cast on top of that. But a shoddy storyline makes this appeal disappear right away. An actor like Willem Dafoe should have been given a purpose instead of being wasted. Christopher Waltz’s immaculate score is impeccable, yet despite all of their efforts, the movie isn’t as spectacular as it could be. However, this is a mediocre film that you can watch without worrying too much; just don’t anticipate a satisfying conclusion. “Dead for a Dollar” is a fairly predictable plot line that should be watched in a laid-back mood only to celebrate these great actors together on the screen.

“Dead for a Dollar” is a 2022 Drama Western film directed by Walter Hill.

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Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami is an artist and an aspiring screenwriter both by profession and passion. Apart from writing stories, poems and songs, studying cinema is her obsession. She is also a freelance painter yet it is the world of cinema that fascinates her the most.

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