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1 review, 7 user ratings

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White Sands
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by Jack Sommersby

"'You're honest, even when you're lying.'"
4 stars

Though it bombed at the box office, it's more than worthy of a look for the curious-minded.

In the flawed but entertaining White Sands, Willem Dafoe gives a consistently interesting performance as Ray Dolezal, a small-town New Mexico sheriff's deputy whose docile existence is considerably enlivened when a dead man is found out by a gorge with what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound, a gun in his hand, no identification, and a suitcase containing half-a-million dollars in cash. After some rather ingenious sleuthing (using a rug fiber to determine which motel the man was staying at; finding a piece of wax paper with phone numbers in his stomach), Ray, suspecting the man was murdered, assumes his identity and sets out for Sante Fe to solve the case. Soon he's caught up in a labyrinth crime plot involving unsavory underworld types and duplicitous FBI agents. The screenwriter is Daniel Pyne, whose previous three movies I hated (Pacific Heights, The Hard Way, Doc Hollywood), but here his story construction and dialogue have considerably improved -- you can sense an honest effort in turning out an inspired piece of work rather than some standardized Hollywood product to appease the popcorn-munching masses. Figuring into the mix is G-man Greg Meeker (Samuel L. Jackson), constantly withholding pertinent information from Ray; arms dealer Gorman Lennox (Mickey Rourke), who thinks Ray is the dead man who'd agreed to put up half a million dollars for a lucrative venture; society heiress Lane Bodine (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who acts as a go-between for Lennox in exchange for a healthy finder's fee; and though they're no more than two-dimensional, they're a colorful bunch we don't mind spending time with. Ditto Ray, who Dafoe plays with lucid simplicity -- we can believe from the get-go the hero's innate sense of decency, as well as the his considerable intelligence that's good enough to outwit his adversaries who think he can be easily manipulated. The movie is complicated but not joylessly impenetrable (there's even a humorous reference to the quintessentially-complicated 1946 The Big Sleep), and though Pyne would've been better off ironing out a late-in-the-game plot twist more organically, the pluses far outweigh the minuses (like a dumb chase sequence involving a car and a pick-up truck attached to a horse trailer). The Southwest location shooting is outstanding, compliments of Peter Menzies, Jr.'s sensitive lighting; the effective music score by Patrick O'Hearn is uncommonly innovative; and that underrated director Roger Donaldson, who gave us the fine political thrillers Marie and No Way Out, works with his usual assuredness and fluidity. In the end White Sands doesn't amount to anything particularly revelatory, but its impressive craftsmanship and ability to hold us from first scene to last shouldn't be taken lightly.

The DVD sports both a gorgeous visual transfer, but aside from a theatrical trailer there are no special features.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15780&reviewer=327
originally posted: 01/15/14 21:00:15
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User Comments

3/24/17 danR Good;but though I can usually get my bearings eventually, a lot of the plot eluded me. 4 stars
2/13/17 morris campbell not bad 4 stars
1/20/14 Man Out Six Bucks Galvanizing scenery feeds a watchable script and memorable climax 5 stars
3/03/11 Durwood Great film that hovers between espionage and action! 5 stars
7/23/10 bagwell5 Great cast & performances. Clever story with some nice twists. 5 stars
10/27/07 Jack Sommersby Illogical but colorfully alive and entertaining. 4 stars
2/01/07 Charles Tatum Ambitious but unmemorable 3 stars
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  20-Aug-1992 (M)

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