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Review of Sioux City, aka Ultimate Revenge
Lou Diamond Phillips is Jesse Rainfeather Goldman in this tale of a Sioux indian boy given up for adoption to become a casualty department doctor fostered by two Jewish parents in LA.
When he receives a letter and amulet from his birth mother on his birthday, he is bound to go and look her up in Nebraska, only to find she died under suspicious circumstances. He gets re-acquainted with his relatives, such as his medicine man grandfather and also with a girl working at the local store (Salli Richardson - allow me to pick up my tongue from my shoes, please... wow). All he can remember of his mother are flashes of memory, her giving him up, and her being knocked about by some faceless man.
After pressing his luck by trying to impress on the local chief of police that his mother's death wasn't an accident and picking up the chief's daughter (Lise Cutter), he gets followed around and is almost beaten to death by the local police hoodlums.
This is an interesting movie, even though it has all the production values of a movie of the week, made for tv, Canadian effort.
It's main thread is about an unsolved murder, but it is really about the multiplous ethnic/racial/national/religious/professional identities many of us juggle with in this modern world. Considering his biography, this might well be a crypto- biographical effort on the part of Lou Diamond Phillips, and why he might have taken on the project and directed it.
All in all, not a great movie, but not a really bad one either, and interesting for it's existential ideas and viewpoints, rather than it's thematic originality.
This is an interesting film for me in that I actually know someone like
Lou Diamond Phillips's character in Sioux City. He's also an orphan
Indian, in his case Chippewa, who was adopted and raised by Jewish
parents. Unlike Lou's character, he shows no promise of becoming a
doctor. I do wonder sometimes though if this individual's substance
abuse problems might be partially the result of an identity problem. If
you saw him now at the age of 36 you would not mistake him for being
Lou Diamond Phillips faces an identity crisis in Sioux City. His mother Tantoo Cardinal gave him up for adoption at a young age to Mr.&Mrs. Goldman of Beverly Hills. He's grown up to be a young doctor interning at one of Los Angeles's hospitals. He gets a note from his birth mother with an amulet asking him to visit her on the reservation. When he goes there, he finds she's dead, victim of a fire of suspicious origin.
In Lou Diamond Phillips's multi-cultural background is part Cherokee Indian and he's certainly taken on Indian roles and done them quite well as he does in Sioux City. He directed this film and it's a good one that was obviously a labor of love for him. Sad in this day and age a film like Sioux City could not find an audience because it's a good story of a man both solving the riddle of his mother's death and the riddle of his own identity.
Phillips got good support from Salli Richardson as the trading post owner on the reservation, Ralph Waite, not as lovable Dad Walton, but a vicious and corrupt local sheriff and Apesanahkwat as Lou's birth grandfather, a Lakota Medicine Man.
The cinematography at the Lakota Reservation was done with an obviously loving hand. It's a good effort by Lou Diamond Phillips and his cast and it's sad more people didn't get to see this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I thought this film to be good although it could have been better if
the character played by Lou Diamond Phillips was more aggressive in his
search for who killed his mother. Only in the end did he and the killer
confront one another and even then others intervened. Justice was
rightfully served when the white man who killed Lou Diamond's mother
ended up getting shot himself! I just think it would have been more
appropriate if Lou did it himself.
The hidden message that this film tried to portray, at least in my opinion, is that cover-ups to murdered Native people occur all the time! "Sioux City" is an example of how the corruption of white society leads people to think that it's "ok" to kill Indians when it's not. As is usually the case, city police forces like the one shown in the film did everything they could in attempting to cover up the murder of Dawn Rainfeather. Well, it's a good thing her son stepped in when he did otherwise there would have been no way of knowing who murdered Dawn. This was a movie but in the sad reality of things, cover-ups for murdered Native people happens all the time. The excuse that the police chief gave Lou when he killed her was that he didn't want him to know that the police chief was in fact his father. That was just a cover-up for the real reason why he murdered her: because she was just another Indian! :(
ANYWAYS... that's my scoop. Of course, as with any other realistic film dealing with American Indians, this one had a lot of mystery and suspense that came to a fitting climax when the truth came out in the end.
Hard for me to suspend enough disbelief to watch this movie. Having grown up in Sioux City, I am aware that there are no Lakota Sioux reservations near there. Closest one is a Winnebago reservation in Nebraska. Lakota Sioux are further west in north central Nebraska and central South Dakota and have several reservations there. Dakota Sioux are more predominant in Sioux City. I also feel that the premise of the movie is somewhat demeaning to the people of the region. Additionally, I remember there being a strong push for the tribes to keep their children within the tribe and to try to raise them with the tribal heritage. A couple from Beverly Hills seems pretty far-fetched to the reality of this adoption scenario.
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