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), 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 the likes of John Hurt and, briefly, Robert Mitchum – not to mention 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.
Director Jim Jarmusch, always an acquired taste, really tests audiences’ limits this time. There are compensations, notably Farmer’s ingratiating performance, Robby Muller’s striking black and white camera work, and Neil Young‘s tangy 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.
Johnny “The Kid” Pickett
Salvatore “Sally” Jenko