Review: Wind River – Frigid and slightly flawed

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Wind RiverThere’s blood on the snow as crime drama returns to “the Rez” in writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s new film, Wind River, a thriller that mixes melodrama with Native American missing-person issues, to mostly satisfying effect.

You might recall that Sheridan is the scribe responsible for the recent hit films Sicario and Hell or High Water, and he’s a very good writer. Unfortunately, as a director he’s a little undisciplined when it comes to weeding out some of his words. This film could use editing, but it’s still a satisfying effort overall.

Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a somber hunter for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Wyoming. While chasing a rogue mountain lion through the frigid winter landscape, he stumbles across the dead body of a young Native American girl, who has died under circumstances similar to his own daughter’s, three years earlier.

Elizabeth Olsen plays a rookie FBI agent, Jane Banner (no relation to Bruce), who is called in to assist the reservation police, headed by the tribal sheriff (Graham Greene). Together the three heroes face the harsh elements, uncooperative locals, and oil workers who are living like they are in the old west instead of 21st century America.

Wind RiverSheridan blends in some social commentary about Native American life on the reservation, but this mostly falls flat and is a distraction from the murder-mystery; and at one point the filmmaker seems to abandon the “mystery” part of this altogether and awkwardly cuts to a violent flashback that explains everything – a pretty lazy move for such an accomplished screenwriter.

On a side note, as I watched this movie with Renner in his cowboy hat on the reservation, interacting with the Native American culture, and with the messaging regarding the Native American political issues, I was taken back to the seventies and the Billy Jack films.

Jeremy Renner would be the perfect “Billy Jack” in a remake of that film franchise… just saying. (Get on that, Hollywood!)

Despite a couple of minor storytelling flaws, some much needed edits, and some content that I doubt our Native American friends are going to be happy with, Wind River is a different and mostly entertaining crime story. Grade: 6.5/10

In the Phoenix metro area, “Wind River” will open exclusively on Friday, August 11, 2017, at Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square 14.

Photos Copyright © 2017 The Weinstein Company

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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