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Dead Man (1995)

Offbeat Western starring Johnny Depp as penniless sissy Ohio accountant William Blake who arrives in the lawless Wild West town of Machine (where prostitutes perform blowjobs in the street) to take a job at Dickinson’s metalworks, but finds the post has been filled.

He is thrown into the street by the owner (Robert Mitchum in his last screen appearance), and later that night inadvertently kills the man’s son (Gabriel Byrne) in self-defence and is pursued as a gunslinger by a trio of bounty hunters, including one (Lance Henriksen) who may be a cannibal.


Dead Man pokes along for two hours and 14 minutes and independent director Jim Jarmusch’s black-and-white take on the cowboy movie is as bizarre and deadpan as his usual work, but it’s enlivened by appearances from  John Hurt and Gary Farmer (as an eccentric chatterbox Plains Indian called Nobody who’s under the illusion that Depp’s William Blake is the late English poet).

Jarmusch, always an acquired taste, really tests audiences’ limits this time.  There are compensations, notably Robby Muller’s striking black and white camera work and Neil Young‘s exquisite guitar score.

Jarmusch’s offbeat humour pops up now and then – two marshals are named Lee and Marvin – but it’s hard to feel much empathy for the dying Blake as his boat sails off to nirvana.

William Blake
Johnny Depp
John Scholfield
John Hurt
Mr Olafsen
John North
John Dickinson
Robert Mitchum
Thel Russell
Mili Avital
Charlie Dickinson
Gabriel Byrne
Cole Wilson
Lance Henriksen
Conway Twill
Michael Wincott
Johnny “The Kid” Pickett
Eugene Byrd
Gary Farmer
Salvatore “Sally” Jenko
Iggy Pop

Jim Jarmusch