Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dead Man Review

Dir. Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum, Gary Farmer
After arriving in the town of Machine and being denied a job he was promised, William Blake (Depp) meets a woman and is involved in a fatal shootinginvolving her ex lover. After leaving the town, he is joined by an Indian named Nobody (Farmer) and embarks on a journey to the west.

At first glance, the biggest takeaway from this film is that it is about the journey of William Blake as he is being guided by Nobody through purgatory to the afterlife. Kind of a western riff on The Divine Comedy, but overall It’s a bit heavy-handed with that message. Most of the dialogue tends to point towards that and reading, and Nobody’s constant asking “Do you have any tobacco?” adds to this, as tobacco was used by the Native Americans in many ceremonial rituals. But the oddest thing about the movie is how similar it is to the recent Lone Ranger film, which also stars Depp. In that film, Tonto fills the role of Nobody, guiding the white man through the film, even using a variation on Nobody’s repeated line “Stupid fucking white man”. In both films Nobody and Tonto have scenes where they recount their tragic backstories, and both films also feature a villain that commits cannibalism. But this movie is a lot funnier than I expected it to be. Robert Mitchum’s scenes were funny, and Michael Wincott comes close to stealing the movie as the bounty hunter Conway Twill, who constantly runs his mouth. Alfred Molina requesting and autograph and Billy Bob Thorton complementing Blake’s hair made me laugh

The movie has a great cast, featuring Robert Mitchum (in his final role), John Hurt, Lance Henriksen, Gabriel Byrne, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, and an uncredited Steve Buscemi*. The supporting cast is so great that it kind of makes up for the bland everyman character that Johnny Depp gets to play. It’s not that he’s bad as Blake, but the role is more bland and not as exciting as the other roles in the film.  But Depp does his usual thing, which means at 28 minutes in Depp gets mud on his face, and then at 1:09 Nobody applies warpaint to Blake’s face, cause he can’t not wear makeup in a movie. 90% of his movies are him in makeup and funny hats or wigs, and this film is no exception. The sad thing is that he’s a decent actor, but he seems to have become lazy and would just rather do the same old thing for a big paycheck. Gary Farmer is great in the role of Nobody, guiding Blake through the film and being the wisest and most interesting character. This film has been praised for its accurate portrayal of Native Americans, and Farmer as Nobody is a big part of why the film works, giving the film a warm, friendly feeling whenever he's onscreen.

I liked the movie, but I will admit that it (like other films by Jim Jarmusch) isn’t for everyone. It’s an interesting movie, and the black and white cinematography is beautiful at times. It’s a film where supporting cast does all the work and makes up for a weak lead. But it’s never boring, and it’s got some interesting themes.

*He’s the bartender.

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