"Wind River" Spoiled by Hot Air

General | Aug 28, 2017 | Carlos Castillo

Saw “Wind River this past weekend. It’s a movie that would have gone down smoothly when I was young and dumb. It got me thinking, but in ways the filmmakers probably didn’t intend.

It started with the guns.

Guns are cool, aren’t they? And the nickel-plated ones used by the stoic hero (Jeremy Renner) were no exception. A long-range rifle and what looked like a .357 handgun. And if that wasn’t enough weapon porn, you also had a long montage of close-ups as he crafted his own bullets in his woodsy man cave.

I’m going to watch these things and confine them to the movie. But too many others, especially younger guys, will yearn to own the guns modeled by Mr. Strong-And-Silent. I guess I would have been OK with all of this in a straight genre pic, but the film frequently—and somewhat sneakily—crossed into a strange stew of political rhetoric.

My first whiff came early, in scenes with Stoic Hero’s young son, who is half Native-American. First there are a few lines about gun safety (to show responsible gun ownership). It was akin to one of those legally mandated disclaimers and is utterly ridiculous in a film chock full of gunplay and carnage.

Another thing that got my attention was Stoic Hero’s line about “standing your ground” when the boy is dealing with a spirited horse. “Stand your ground” is a loaded term these days and the filmmakers didn’t just add it willy-nilly. Then, as if to appease the lefties in the audience, they threw in a lot of somber Native Americans, still obviously peeved at the white man for making their lives miserable. Except for the Stoic Hero, of course. He was pretty much seen as an A-OK guy by the denizens of the poverty-wracked reservation. Of course, the hero couldn’t actually be a Native-American, could he?

One scene in particular really irked me. It was an expository scene with Stoic Hero and the fish-out-of-water FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins. As he relates losing his own murdered daughter, Stoic Hero laments dropping his guard, as if he could’ve prevented her death. This seemed to play to the irrational fears hounding our society today, that somehow—preferably with a gun in our hand—we can keep the bogeyman at bay.

Later in the movie, the Stoic Hero celebrates a murder victim as a “warrior” in her fight to stay alive. But a few scenes later, he’s talking about how it’s not the unlucky deer that falls to the predator but the weak one. So the murder victim: warrior or weak deer? Pick a lane, dude. It was as if the deer line was too good to chuck, even if it conflicted with the character’s philosophical meanderings. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, weirdoes like me were paying attention.

I remember feeling like a shower after “Crazy Heart,” Jeff Bridges’ character study of a faded country-western singer. That was back in 2009, when Obama had just started his first term and discontent was already brewing. It only took a few lines to make me feel “Crazy Heart” was saying something to a specific audience and I wasn’t it.

I’m not saying to avoid “Wind River.” Renner’s laconic performance shined and the director told a straightforward story without any over-the-top effects. Get rid of a few of the ham-handed lines and “Wind River” is a tight little murder mystery.

But did the filmmakers really need to open up a can of political worms? I guess they thought they could have it both ways and stretch out their audience demographics to red and blue states.

I didn’t need a shower this time, but the detour into politics took me out of the story unnecessarily. Sometimes we go to the movies for an escape. For me, “Wind River” blew it on that count.

Keywords: Wind River, movie, film

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