Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Actor Robert De Niro started a production company to make films just like this one: stories which were unpopular with the establishment and which are unlikely to make a big splash at the box-office. Even so, this is a first-class production, and the filmmakers were the first to receive permission to film on the Pine Ridge (Sioux) Reservation in South Dakota, likely due to director Michael Apted's having previously made an accurate and sensitive documentary about Indian political prisoner Leonard Peltier's case, Incident at Oglala. The film did exactly as well as expected at the box-office but has since assumed greater importance as one of the tiny number of "mainstream" movies which faithfully and respectfully illuminate Native American issues. In the story, loosely based on the earlier documentary, Ray Levoi (Val Kilmer) is an ambitious up-and-coming FBI agent in the 1970s with great career prospects. The one thing he will not tolerate is any reference to his half-Indian heritage. As far as he is concerned, his loyalties and culture identify him with the government and his white mother. He is extremely touchy about anything to do with his father, who was an alcoholic full-blooded Sioux. However, the FBI wants to take advantage of his half-Indian blood to mend fences in a politically sensitive murder investigation, and it sends him exactly where he doesn't want to go. Further, he is widely advertised as being Indian, though he knows virtually nothing about his heritage and has renounced it to the best of his ability. Once on the reservation, he becomes deeply involved in a truly messy state of affairs and is drawn into situations where he is forced to confront his background, native spirituality, and the duplicity of the government and its allies within the tribe. Despite his consistent prickliness about his heritage, his heart is in the right place, and the reservation's sheriff (Graham Greene) and a wise spiritual elder (Chief Ted Thin Elk) patiently lead their unwilling FBI pupil on a soul-wrenching wild goose chase which paradoxically takes him straight to the heart of the matter.
federal-agent, investigation, heritage, Indian (Native-American)-reservation, murder, Native-American, Sioux [Lakota]
High Production Values, Sleeper