and nature's disappeared the wind's got so much colder and it's playing on my fears and there's a dark wind blowing ~The Saw Doctors
Dark Wind is another release by novelist Tony Hillerman, centering around the dealings of Native American police and the crimes they fight. This is the introductory piece, followed by Skinwalkers in 2002 and Coyote Waits in 2003, all using basically the same characters albeit not all the same actors. However, Lou Diamond Phillips stars as Officer Jim Chee, a role turned over to Adam Beach in the other films. In the same vein, Fred Ward plays Capt. Leaphorn, later taken over by Wes Studi. In both cases, the change in actors was an addition rather than deterrent.
This time the Navajo/Hopi reservation is invaded by drugs, smuggling, plane crashes, robbery, and, of course, murder. As he develops further in the later releases, Chee gently introduces his intuitive powers as a healer and leader in the tribe to ferret the truth from the criminals. His demeanor is always calm, almost tranquil, as he delves into the mysteries to solve the crimes.
As in Coyote Waits and Skinwalkers, legends surround their names and Dark Wind refers to the evil that invades people and cause them to do things they otherwise might not consider. While we are sometimes aware of those that commit the crimes, it is still interesting to watch Phillips lead us peacefully down the trail of investigation and into the corruption of the outside world intruding on the reservation.
These films are relatively simple pieces, the Jim Chee character almost a Columbo type in Indian garb, yet he is endearing. Again we learn of some native cultures and beliefs but not so much as to be intrusive. Filming is generally fairly well done with some beautiful, if stark, landscapes intermixed with broken houses falling to ruins.
Having seen Coyote Waits before this film, I was a bit disappointed in the characterization of Jim Chee. Of course there is no comparison between Adam Beach and Lou Diamond Phillips, who I find to be mediocre at best. Despite that, I enjoyed the slow involvement of the film as it played into the part that Phillips was trying to portray. I can’t say I regret watching this because I liked seeing how the story began before it evolved into the Coyote Waits film, which I really enjoyed.
Dark Wind was directed, in part, by Errol Morris. I understand differences between him and Robert Redford caused him to leave before completion of the film. Neal Jimenez wrote the screenplay from Hillerman’s novel. It was OK, not groundbreaking.