ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT DORK SHELF
Virgil First Raise (Chaske Spencer) wakes up in a ditch on the hardscrabble plains of Montana, hungover and badly beaten. He returns to his ranch on the reservation to find that his wife, Agnes (Julia Jones), has left him. Worse, she’s taken his beloved rifle. Virgil sets out to town find her— or perhaps just the gun— beginning a hi-line odyssey of inebriated and possibly imagined intrigues in town with the mysterious ‘Airplane Man’ (David Morse), a beautiful barmaid, and two dangerous Men in Suits. Virgil’s quest brings him face-to-face with his childhood memories of his beloved lost brother, Mose.
Twin directors Alex and Andrew Smith have attempted to create a film that is true to the spirit of James Welch’s 1974 novel about Native American life, but the film is just as meandering and disjointed as Virgil’s recollections. Narrated in voice over by an older Virgil and liberally jumping between young man Virgil and childhood, the film comes across aloof, keeping the audience at a distance the whole time, much like Virgil does with everyone else. David Morse’s Airplane Man (clearly his attempt at Hunter S Thompson) is uneven at best, and oddly a low point from an otherwise usually strong actor. The other myriad of characters that jump in and out of Virgil’s fever dream are never really developed beyond caricatures and sketches that aren’t all that interesting.
Winter in the Blood rests solely on the shoulders of Chaske Spencer, and while his performance is very strong, it’s not enough to anchor the sense of aimlessness that permeates the heart of the film.
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