17 February 2005 | FieCrier
slow, sad film about poverty and braveness; respectable first-time directing work by Depp
I had read an article in a waiting room Entertainment Weekly while getting a punctured tire repaired, an article about unreleased (or little-released) films and albums by big-name directors and artists. An internet search indicates this was "Buried Treasure" by Tim Carvell in issue # 795, December 3, 2004. One of them was this film, unreleased in the US, but available on DVD in the UK. Happily I own a region-free player that does PAL-NTSC conversion (I wish they would abolish regional encoding!), and the DVD on the UK Amazon site was relatively cheap, so I ordered it.
I'm surprised to see that the author of the novel this film was adapted from was the author of the Fletch series! This is entirely different.
Johnny Depp plays a native American living with his wife, son, and daughter in a small trailer in a shantytown next to a garbage dump in the desert. Days seem to be spent mostly sleeping. He goes to town to apply for a job a man in a bar told him about. He goes to a pretty shady place, and we learn what the job is (reading the DVD box would tell you the same thing): to be tortured and killed (presumably on film) for $50,000. He's given some money up front (at least a couple thousand, not sure how much), and a week before he has to come back to do the job. Evidently in the book he's only offered $30,000 and given $200 up front!
He goes back home, and doesn't do much initially, but then tries bonding more with his family, who he'd grown apart from while drinking. He spends the money on things that delight his kids, but seem pretty frivolous. His wife is worried he's robbed a store or done something else that will get him put in jail again. He hopes the money will help his family move up in life, and it comes at an opportune time, since the shantytown is due to be demolished.
It's a bit longer than I think it need be, about two hours. However, it is well directed. I think Johnny Depp did a good job with it.
Marlon Brando's role is pretty small. He'd worked with Depp before in Don Juan DeMarco (1995), quite a different movie than this one! Iggy Pop, who worked on the soundtrack has a short cameo as a man at a fiesta eating a giant drumstick.