90's Thriller Throwback: Thunderheart

Graham Greene Steals The Show in This Riveting Thriller That Surprised Me At Every Turn

by robotGEEK

From writer John Fusco (Young Guns 1 & 2), and director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough), comes this riveting thriller about a part Native American FBI agent (Val Kilmer), sent to a murder investigation on a Sioux reservation in what's meant to be an open and shut case. Partnered with veteran FBI agent Frank Coutelle (Sam Shepard), Ray Levoi (Kilmer) soon realizes that things just aren't adding up, and corruption may play a part.

I think I avoided this all these years because I assumed it was going to be a drama more than anything, but finally having seen it, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it's in fact a sharp, taute and riveting thriller. It helps that the legendary Roger Deakins infuses the film with gorgeous cinematography, but there's so much more to offer here. For starters, John Fusco's script is excellent, giving enough time to deliver a real human connection, while simultaneously delivering the goods in the thriller department. British filmmaker Michael Apted takes great care in presenting the Native American angle with compassion, while also delivering a visually impressive aesthetic that 90's thrillers were so fond of. It's a shame most films aren't shot this way anymore, much less thrillers. It adds such a large touch of class to it all. Nowadays, shooting fast and loose seems to be the norm and it just takes so much away from the material.

Kilmer, fresh off the heels of his portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors, does a fine job, as does the always reliable Sam Shepard and the painfully underused Fred Ward (Tremors, Remo Williams), but it's Graham Greene who steals the show here as Walter Crow Horse, a local police officer. While he had been working regularly since the late 70's, it wasn't until his breakout role in Dances With Wolves two years prior that Hollywood took notice, and here he delivers arguably the best performance, both of his career and in the film in general.

For a film I half-expected to use as a way of falling asleep (I have insomnia and sometimes watch slow films to fall asleep), I was thoroughly invested the entire time. Thunderheart packs a punch of thrills, emotions and intensity, and combined with it's gorgeous cinematography, strong performances and riveting storytelling, makes this an impressive and unforgettable film experience.

How to see it:
Currently available on every format other than Blu-Ray (yet), you can rent it to stream on Amazon for a few bucks, or watch it for free in HD on Crackle.com, as long as you're okay with commercial breaks.

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