Young Indian man Thomas is a nerd in his reservation, wearing oversize glasses and telling everyone stories no-one wants to hear. His parents died in a fire in 1976, and Thomas was saved by... See full summary »
Faced with the murder of three medicine men, Navajo police must find the culprit. That the murders appear to be the work of a Skinwalker, or bad medicine man, complicate and illuminate the detective's work. Written by
Redford completely ruins two great mystery characters
Robert Redfords PBS "Mystery" adaptations of Tony Hillerman's Navajo police novels completely ruins the two main characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Chee in the books was a regular guy who also happened to be deeply involved in his people's culture, to the point of learning to be a "singer" or healer. In the films he is already an expert on all things spiritual, the mystical Indian stereotype who has no real personality, no faults to speak of, no doubts about anything, no insecurities. In Hillerman's books, Joe Leaphorn was a "legendary detective" who was also a highly educated scholar, at least as if not much more knowledgeable about Navajo and Native American culture and religion than Chee. But though Leaphorn knew about it all, he didn't live it in the mystical sense, not being particularly religious himself. Leaphorn's god was logic and a belief that everything that happens, happens for a reason. In these crappy movies, poor Wes Studi's version of Leaphorn has been made into a man who knows virtually nothing about his own culture, doomed to be forever "educated" by the know it all mystic man Chee. This makes Chee ever superior, which is very ironic, because in the books, Chee always feels vastly inferior to Leaphorn because of his much greater police knowledge, education, and experience. And it was this part of the relationship that made their two characters so interesting when thrown together.
Producer Robert Redford took two fairly complex characters (by paperback mystery novel standards) and mooshed 'em down into nothing but two more Indian stereotypes.
Redford's first effort to adapt Hillerman (which his company now tries to pretend never existed) was Errol Morris's "The Dark Wind." While that flick was no masterpiece, it was head and feet above these slow, dumbed down TV movies.
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