Director: Taylor Sheridan
Screenwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Kelsey Asbille, Teo Briones
Screened at: Critics’ DVD, NYC, 12/21/17
Opens: November 14, 2017
We hear in the news that the city of Baltimore has the highest murder rate this year, so far, at about 358. But you can’t avoid people who think that killing is OK as long as the taking out of an adversary will get them ahead in the world. Nor do you have to be a sociologist to know that people living under extreme physical conditions in rural areas where there’s nothing else to do may seek sport in assault and murder, as do the no-good-niks in Taylor Sheridan’s sophomore directing with “Wind River.” Taylor had been imaginative enough to contribute the movie “Vile” a few years back, about a woman hitchhiker who knocks out the driver and passengers out with gas and plants devices inside the base of their skulls. This time the women are all pure but some men are vile. It’s an entertainment that evokes a lot of rumination but if you’re a Tarantino fan, Sheridan will cater to you wish some rousing melodrama—including a Mexican standoff that shows that he might be paying homage to Q.T.
Two solid actors anchor the drama, Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, a worker in the wildlife department on the snow-covered grounds of Wyoming and Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), a young novice working for the FBI who is sent out to the woods alone to solve a murder. Of course the two work together and we wonder when an obligatory “romance” scene will develop, but that has to wait until after the end credits roll and the movie concludes. There is some hanky panky, though, as we see in a flashback involving some cuddling between Wilma (Julia Jones) and her s.o., a man with a number of roommates who work with him on an oil rig.
The action takes place on a particularly decrepit Indian reservations with Ben (Graham Greene) standing in for the law as the sheriff. When Wilma’s dead body is discovered, the coroner, Dr. Whitehurst (Eric Lange) is unable to write that the cause of death was murder, despite evidence that she had been raped and had died while running to escape a band of morons. Chief among the scum, Pete (James Jordan), has the role of acting out a Sam Peckinpah-style monologue, a surprisingly over-the-top piece of melodrama in an otherwise, mostly soft-spoken group.
What’s odd here is that Jeremy Renner’s character Cory Lambert is not a lawman. He is a tracker who looks out for the sheep and other potential prey by shooting wolves and, if he can find some, lions. In fact the picture opens with a bang: we watch Lambert looking through the telescopic sight of his high-powered rifle to take out a wolf who is moments from attacking a band of sheep (or goats). Since the FBI agent is wet behind the ears, and because the regular law enforcers from the sheriff’s office need the skills of a tracker, Lambert takes on the major role in this most quiet, though in key spots melodramatic, work.
Taylor Sheridan is the man to watch. He is involved now in a TV special called “Yellowstone,” wherein a ranching family in Montana must face off against people encroaching his land. City people can learn about rural living from Sheridan’s films, enough for me to think that I’m hardly suffering from spending my whole life in Brooklyn.
Rated R. 111 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B-
Acting – B
Technical – B+
Overall – B