Wednesday, March 16, 2005

It's Chinatown meets Tony Hillerman

You know what movie doesn't get enough credit? Thunderheart. It's a solid mystery story, Val Kilmer turns in a good performance, and all of its Magical Indian Hoo-Ha isn't totally stupid. Granted, I know nothing about Native American history or cultures but, at the very least, all the ritual and mysticism in Thunderheart feels like it was researched. It is possible that the screenwriter read a book, and maybe even talked to a real live Indian Guy. This is as opposed to all the Native American Mysticism in Oliver Stone's films, which always feels like its only basis is Stone's own peyote trips and the couple hours he spent in a Sweat Lodge at a Palm Springs day spa. I wonder if Val saw Thunderheart as a sort of penance for The Doors.

There’s a great bit of action in Thunderheart where Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard have arrested an Indian suspect and have handcuffed his hands behind his back.  The Indian manages to distract Val and Sam with a badger (no, really) and makes a breabreak for it.  He runs and leaps off the hood of a parked car.  As he is in mid-air, he slides his cuffed wrists down around his ankles and brings them up in front of himself.  That’s awesome.  It’s such a kung-fu action move but the way it plays in Thunderheart is pretty subtle.  It happens quickly and kind of in the background of the shot.  The movie doesn’t make a big deal out of it at all. In a worse film that moment would be played out over thrity seconds of super slow-mo until the whole thing was beat into the ground. As is, it's the sort of moment that makes you go "Whoa, did you catch that?" and then rewind and replay it a few times before resuming the film.

So, if you get the chance, I'd recommend catching Thunderheart. You don't need to go out of your way or anything but, like, if you have an extra slot in your Netflix queue, that wouldn't be a bad thing to fill it with. If you have cable I wouldn't even bother renting it becasue that shit is on HBO like it's its job.

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