Murder At Yellowstone City Plot Synopsis
Gold. It can drive a man to murder, as you will already know if you have seen the appropriately titled Zach Efron movie, Gold. In Murder At Yellowstone City, a series of killings take place after gold prospector Robert Dunnigan arrives in town with news of the gold he has found.
Dunnigan becomes the first murder victim. The number one suspect is former slave Cicero, who has recently ridden into town. The Sheriff arrests him for the crime but it soon becomes clear that he has the wrong man.
So, who did kill Dunnigan and the other victims of Yellowstone City? And does the Sheriff discover the killer’s identity? Let’s take a closer look at the movie.
How does the movie begin?
The movie starts with a bang when Robert Dunnigan is thrown into the air after his explosive reveals the location of a gold mine. This is witnessed by Cicero, who is on his way to Yellowstone City.
After telling his wife Emma that he has struck gold, Robert heads to the nearby Yellowstone City to inform the townsfolk of his discovery and he promises them a fortune.
Not long after, Cicero arrives in town, but some of the local residents are suspicious of this stranger.
After leaving his horse with Violet, the local stable hand, Cicero heads to the saloon for a drink and begins to bond with Edgar, the saloon owner, over their shared love of Shakespeare.
Life is peaceful for a while but when Robert is murdered while on his way home from the local whorehouse, the Sheriff arrests his number one suspect.
Who does the Sheriff arrest for the crime?
Robert’s body is found and the Sheriff asks the pastor, Thaddeus Murphy, to build a coffin and arrange for a burial. The Sheriff then visits Cicero at his boarding room and arrests him for the murder of the gold prospector. After that, he gives Cicero a warning: if he doesn’t confess his crime to the whole town, he will be put to death by hanging.
After Cicero is locked up in a cell, Violet arrives to tell the Sheriff that his prisoner can’t have committed the crime that took place outside of town because his horse never left the stables.
The Sheriff is dismissive of Violet so Cicero remains in his cell. The unlucky stranger is later visited by Alice, the wife of the pastor, and he opens up to her about his life. We learn that he has no family and that he chose the name Cicero after being inspired by the character in the Shakespeare play ‘Julius Caesar.’
Alice doesn’t have the complete works of Shakespeare to give to Cicero but she does have a Bible, and she leaves it with him before returning to her husband.
Do people believe Cicero killed the gold prospector?
Isabel, a prostitute who was in love with Robert, believes Cicero may have killed her lover. Some of the other ladies in her company think he is guilty too.
However, Alice believes in his innocence and she tells her husband this when she tells him about her meeting with Cicero.
Violet also believes in his innocence and when she finds evidence of another motive to Robert’s death, her beliefs are almost confirmed.
What does Violet find?
After Robert’s death, his wife Emma moves into town and is given a room to sleep and shelter in. The Sheriff tells Emma that the man who killed her husband will pay the price for what he did. But despite her grief, she seems more interested in the person that her husband may have been sleeping with and she asks the Sheriff to name Robert’s “favourite.”
While Emma is in town, Violet visits the woman’s house and finds a letter in her shack. It’s a love note written by Emma’s apparent lover.
So, could Emma’s lover have killed Robert to get him out of the way? It’s a possibility and as Violet thinks the note may be connected to the crime, she hands it over to Thaddeus.
The pastor then visits Cicero and asks him if he killed Robert. Cicero proclaims his innocence.
Later, the pastor and the sheriff meet with Emma. Emma tells them that she is keen to leave town and start life again somewhere new.
After this meeting, Thaddeus shows the Sheriff the letter and tells him Cicero doesn’t seem like a murderer. However, the Sheriff is still unwilling to release the imprisoned man, partly because of a mistake he made years earlier when he released another prisoner who subsequently caused the death of his wife.
When the pastor leaves, the Sheriff tells his son (and part-time deputy) Jimmy about the love letter and encourages him to investigate.
Does the killer strike again?
Yes! Violet becomes the next victim of the killer when he cuts her throat. Co-incidentally, Cicero manages to escape from his cell (we don’t find out how) and the Sheriff naturally believes he killed Violet. A chase ensues as the Sheriff and his men pursue Cicero. Cicero manages to hide after jumping onto a tree from his horse but not before being shot.
As the Sheriff and his men head off in the wrong direction, Cicero makes his way back to town and into the safe confines of the church where Thaddeus and Alice look after him.
After retrieving the bullet from Cicero’s body, Thaddeus suspects it might be different to the one that killed Robert. To confirm this, he digs up the prospector’s body and his suspicions are then confirmed.
Meanwhile, Jimmy turns up at the whorehouse and pays Isabel for sex. Unfortunately for her, he has more on his mind than carnal passion as he murders her when her back is turned. It’s now clear that Jimmy is the real killer!
However, he wasn’t working alone.
What was the motivation for the murders?
We find out Jimmy was in love with Emma and that he killed Isabel at her request. Emma likely told him to kill Isabel because the woman had been sleeping with her husband.
We also discover Jimmy killed Robert and that he likely did this at Emma’s request so they could have a life together.
As for poor Violet, Jimmy probably killed her because of the evidence she found.
What happens to Cicero?
The Sheriff and his men continue their search and eventually find Cicero at the pastor’s home.
A shootout begins when Thaddeus refuses to hand Cicero over and several of the Sheriff’s men are killed.
As the fight continues, Cicero is able to escape on his horse with Alice on the back shooting a gun at the men pursuing them.
They make it to a cabin, a supposed place of safety, but are found by Jimmy and another of the Sheriff’s men.
Another gunfight occurs but when Cicero starts to run out of ammunition, his end seems likely. He manages to take out one of the men but is still under fire from Jimmy. But then Thaddeus arrives just in time and he shoots Jimmy before tying him up.
Does the Sheriff learn of the killer’s identity?
Thaddeus, Cicero and Alice return to town.
They head to the Sherriff’s office and present Jimmy to him.
Jimmy protests his innocence but when the Sheriff summons Emma to his office, their murderous collaboration is revealed after she fails to pin all the blame on Jimmy.
Emma loses her cool and shoots the Sheriff. When Jimmy rushes to his father’s aid, Thaddeus opens fire on Jimmy and fatally injures him.
Jimmy dies in his father’s arms and it can be presumed that his injured father also died moments later (though we don’t see this).
Outside, Thaddeus and Alice pursue Emma who has now escaped. Just as Emma is about to shoot Thaddeus, Alice opens fire and kills her.
As the film draws to a close, Thaddeus and Alice promise to rebuild the town and make it better. As they contemplate their plans, Cicero climbs onto his horse and leaves the town that caused him more trouble than he could ever have imagined.
Read More: Murder At Yellowstone City Movie Review