Dead Man (1996)

Not to be confused with DEAD MAN WALKING, this tedious, episodic 
anti-western stars a bespectacled Johnny Depp as William Blake,
a timid accountant from Cleveland whose first day in the muddy 
frontier town of Machine is a busy one.  In order, he loses a job 
that he didn't have, has a gun pointed at him by the plant owner 
(Robert Mitchum), beds a friendly flower girl (Mili Avital), kills 
her ex-boyfriend (Gabriel Byrne), rides off into the woods wounded, 
and is mistaken as the famous dead poet by the frank-speaking, 
world-traveled Indian (Gary Farmer) who rescues him.  There's also 
trio of bickering bounty hunters (Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, 
and Eugene Byrd) on the trail, as the dead man courting was also 
the plant owner's son.
Long on interesting characters, but short on interesting action, 
DEAD MAN is engaging for, oh, about an hour.  Robby Muller's crisp 
black-and-white photography adds a welcome layer of grit to several 
sights not normally seen in a western.  As Depp mucks his way down 
Main Street, for example, we see a prostitute performing a sex act 
here and a horse urinating over there.  The realism is refreshing 
and goes a long way toward balancing the more-absurd moments, like 
Robert Mitchum speaking to a stuffed bear, Iggy Pop appearing in 
drag, and Lance Henriksen feasting on human flesh.  (Need a hand? 
No thanks, got one!)  And how about that wild, weird guitar-only 
score by Neil Young?  Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (NIGHT 
ON EARTH). (Rated "R"/120 min.)

Grade: C
Copyright 1996 by Michael J. Legeros

Originally posted on triangle.movies in MOVIE HELL: June 16, 1996

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