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Dead Man

Year: 1995
Production Co: Pandora Filmproduktion
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris, Gabriel Byrne, Alfred Molina, Steve Buscemi

It was with some surprise I realised I'd never reviewed this movie for Filmism.net – I knew I'd seen it. That's not usually something I'd talk about in the review, which is where you refer to the content of a movie and not whether you did or didn't see it when you thought you did.

But it's relevant here because of how completely it disappeared up its own proverbial in the final few scenes. I think the reason I'd never written a review it because it's one of the few films I got so bored of at such a late stage I turned it off very close to the end and therefore didn't think I was qualified to review it.

But I don't think whatever I missed in teh final 5-10 minutes was very much. And the reason I think I was so disappointed was because I'd found everything up until then pretty entertaining. Whether it's the endlessly rewatchable Stupid Fucking White Men scene with Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop and Jared Harris or Michael Wincott, Lance Henriksen and Eugene Byrd as the bickering assassins, the story of William Blake's (Johnny Depp) travels is pretty episodic but the freewheeling nature of his quest is Jarmusch through and through.

The mild mannered accountant arrives in the town of Machine to work in the offices of a law firm, only to be told the position is unavailable. Seeking solace in the arms of a local lady of the night he quickly makes powerful enemies when he finds himself in a shoot-out with one of the sons of his supposed employer, a powerful local man who'll stop at nothing to exact frontier justice on Blake.

He staggers away into the night and finds himself rescued by a local brave calling himself nobody (Gary Farmer). Nobody, an otherwise learned and wise man finely attuned to his spiritual heritage and the Earth, nevertheless thinks Blake is actually the noted English poet of the same name. Realising he's mortally wounded from his gunshot wound, Nobody sets about delivering his hero to the ocean to give him a proper native burial.

On the way they leave a trail of bloodshed as they come across any number of very Jarmusch-ian takes on Western tropes, the bounty on Blake's head growing higher all the time and the three killers tracking he and Nobody closing in.

Shot in crisp monochrome, it was an actors dream, and Jarmusch assembled an appropriately amazing cast of both hot current names and elder statesman thespians. An early Miramax/Weinstein release, it flopped hard but has accumulated a cult following ever since. It might well be I get more out of the ending if I watched it again today, but I feel like I got to see the best of it.

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