Coyote Waits (2003 TV Movie)
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For me, fortunately the pace and structure of the movie was outstanding in this CSI laden era of mystery. The back and forth development of the case was to me intriguing and provided enough information to get you involved but not to much information to stop your personal hunt to figure out who committed the crimes.
There was enough personal concern for Adam Beach's character Jim Chee to strive for the resolution of this mystery. From time to time it is nice to see a Movie/TV cop solve a crime because it is the right thing to do without car chases or autopsy scenes shocking your senses.
This enjoyable, well acted, film keeps you guessing until the end.
Due to the scenery, it is visually entertaining as it maintains a good story line. At the same time, the characters are full of life and emotion, but not so much as to overwhelm the mystery lurking beneath the story line.
Adam Beech and Wes Studi both give good, believable performances.
As this is an intelligent persons movie, I would recommend this film to people who do not need graphic violence or bad language to enjoy a film.
ANYWAYS.... this film along with the other 3 mentioned all go hand in hand. This is why I gave it a 7 out of 10.
Both Adam Beech and Wes Studi reprise their roles as lawmen, seeking truth this time about an unlikely murderer and the crime he supposedly committed. The struggle between mythology and law continues in this movie as Adam Beech's character, Jim Chee, has to deal with doubt and remorse, and Joe Leaphorn, played again by Wes Studi, reluctantly seeks positive proof about the reservation murder.
Robert Redford also lends his name again as Executive Producer, thus ensuring the unchanged production value. There is no doubt that the next movie, due to air in Spring of 2004, will exceed its predecessors in taut, mysterious entertainment.
Adam Beach reprises his "Skinwalkers" role as "Jim Chee", alongside other "Skinwalkers" veterans, Sheila Tousey, and Wes Studi. None of the three are actually Navajo, though they are Native American. Personally I think casting should be based on the best actor for the part, and would have liked to see Phillips reprise his role. Beach is not a Navajo either and is still learning his craft; Phillips is a seasoned veteran. (Before folks get upset let me say this, tribal background should be taken in account when casting Native American roles. It is insulting to insist the tribes are interchangeable. Recall how silly it was for a Swedish accented actor to play a Frenchman in "Good Will Hunting"? It is the same point here.)
Presented in letterbox format, the scenery is at once mystical, isolating and all-encompassing. The production values lift it above "made for tv" status. The language, mild by todays standards, does use the popular term for excrement several times, but not gratuitously. The scenery is beautiful. The picture-postcard-blue of one scene's sky is so beautiful it brings a tear to the eye.
The plot is not as meaty as it could have been and some roles could have been eliminated without too much loss to the whole.
The intentions are good but there comes a time when intentions should be removed from the equation. "Coyote Waits" is not as fulfilling as it could have been, regardless of its intentions.
Coyote Waits is the best of the TV movies, but it suffers from the same conscientious flaws that mar the other three productions. It's best to remind ourselves just why Hillerman's mysteries are so good: They are complex yet believable; are set in what, for most Americans, is an exotic locale within a culture which is not well known; and the mysteries are superbly constructed and well written. Hillerman educates us along the way -- if we want to be educated -- about Navajo people, customs, history and the Navajo belief system. He makes clear the tension between modern needs and traditional values, but he does it matter-of- factly, with no preaching, and always within the context of the mystery he's telling.
Redford and his team almost perversely get it backward. More than any of the other flaws, it's the reverential treatment given to the Navajo and their land that sinks these movies into culturally-approved lessons. Instead of trusting the audience to take up what they will and learn from it or not, as Hillerman does, we have sweeping camera vistas of the land at dramatic moments; a generically sensitive "ethnic" score that tries to tell us what we should be appreciating in the Navajo belief system; and a need to cram in so many plot points from the books with messages about Navajo issues that the mysteries themselves become disorganized.
Coyote Waits eventually settles down to a better than average telling of Hillerman's story, which involves a ruthless search for old bones. A great deal of money and an enhanced reputation are the prizes. There's murder and avarice, rattlesnakes and Bolivian coins and the continuing conflict within Chee over his job as a cop and his gifts as a healer. Chee and the older Leaphorn wind up working together but on parallel aspects of the case. It makes for a neat way to keep the two different men prominent in the solution. The director and writer have managed with partial success to keep the focus on the story. Coyote Waits is far more coherent and with less of the reverential stuff that so marred, in my opinion, Skinwalkers and The Thief of Time.
You might want to give The Dark Wind a try. Phillips makes an interesting, if young, Chee. The movie, however, also keeps getting sidetracked into overly respectful appreciation of the Navajo way. The Navajo deserve better...which they get in the Hillerman books.
I give this movie a better-than-average rating because, even with the movie's flaws, the team tried to do a better job. When they concentrated on the mystery, the movie works reasonably well.
Not having read the book, I thought this was a decent film, though it could have been better. While it's nice they cast real natives in the major roles, I thought it was pretty strange that not a single person looked Navajo. Given the huge number of people in this country with Navajo ancestry, I'm surprised Redford couldn't find one or two he thought could act well enough to carry a made-for-TV movie. And half the scenes didn't look to me like they were shot anywhere near the Navajo Nation, though I admit it's a big place that no one could know all of. Finally, too many of the characters came across as stereotypes. I've only read one Hillerman novel, so I don't know if that's due to the original novel or the screenplay or the directing.
All that said, it was a decent couple hours of entertainment, and I'll watch upcoming episodes, though I'm definitely not rushing out to buy the DVD.