Dead Man - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Dead Man Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 8, 2010
Mild-mannered accountant Bill Blake heads West, shoots a man because he's in the wrong place at the wrong time, and flees to the wilderness where he's befriended by an Indian named Nobody who believes he is the poet William Blake. Strange, mystical Western that never exactly turns surreal but always feels like a dream; the once-in-a-lifetime cast of Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Robert Mitchum, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Lance Henrikson, Crispin Glover, Billy Bob Thornton and Iggy Pop is reason enough to watch it.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2010
It's very difficult to pin down what this film is always doing right and what it is doing strange. Described by the very director as being an acid Western, this has also been referred to as a neo-neo-realistic Western and a plethora of other intellectual terms. Jarmusch certainly is vibrant and cool in places, mixing the deep riffs of Neil Young on electric guitar in the background with black and white tracking shots of the surrounding forest. His use of visuals, light, and cinematography really resonant after you watch it, and yet coil your stomach at the same time. What works especially well is the lack of overacting and the simplistic and yet precise directing, which leaves you with long, powerful scenes of men in the black wilderness, fighting each other, looking for meaning, and finding themselves out of their element. What is strange, and perplexes even the most seasoned of critics, is what exactly Jarmusch is trying to get through with this surrealist venture, or if there is any meaning at all. His characters spout the verses of poet William Blake, the name of the main character, who is under a mistaken identity, travelling with a Native American companion, and goes through with the ruse from there. Apparently Jarmusch stayed true to the Native American culture as well, and is one of the only white directors to take on that ethnicity and found depth and fortitude in complex storytelling. Personally, I found Blake's inner turmoil over his life's many changes and pitfalls, and then going through with the ruse to the point of exaltation and crime, to be of the same content as coming of age stories, but with a much broader approach. Though the film looks generally indie, it cost an astonishing 9 million dollars, in order to stay historically accurate. The backgrounds, costumes, and most of the historical detailing were very impressive, and were easily noticed. Jarmusch also gets use of a large cast of esteemed actors, including Johnny Depp, Robert Mitchum (in his final role), Billy Bob Thornton, and Gary Farmer, and utilizes them to their full potential, even in small scenes that would usually call for understatement. (When Iggy Pop is onscreen, you have to take notice.) Overall a mixed bag between the pretention of vagueness, the monotony of slow scenes, and the depth of meaning, however interpreted by the audience.
Super Reviewer
December 28, 2006
The wild west gets the Jarmusch treatment in this road movie without a road that sees eastern city accountant Johnny Depp finding himself wanted for murder and on the run in an unfamiliar wilderness and society that seems to be constructed from pure, undiluted death. The usual quirky mix of oddball characters and surreal images you'd expect from Jarmusch, Dead Man is most certainly not your typical western. Shot as westerns should be in black and white (echoing the best works of Ford and Mann) Depp's journey encounters a supporting cast to die for including Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Gary Farmer as his cryptic gibberish spouting Indian guide, Lance Henriksen as a psychopathic cannibal bounty hunter, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton who supply the funniest gun fight I've ever seen, Robert Mitchum as a psychotic horse lover and Alfred Molina as a despicable "missionary" who form the rich tapestry of weirdness that is this film. I felt it ran out of steam a little as the ending is a little anti-climactic, but the journey there was so engaging it was worth it. Strange and beautiful.
Super Reviewer
½ March 6, 2012
Well, this was the 2nd time that I watched this..thinking that maybe I missed how good this was supposed to be the first time. No. I still am not sure what all the hype is about. This is just ok to me...
Super Reviewer
½ October 27, 2011
Jarmusch's take on the western with a perfect performance from Johnny Depp.
Super Reviewer
October 24, 2011
Hauntingly good film. Episodic, full of blackouts and a grinding Neil Young soundtrack, this is a neo-neo-realist take on a simple Western story, full of disillusionment and pain but also insight and laughter. More than anything, this film makes its money with its style, somehow glossy and gritty at the same time, and deceptively simple. A really unique movie from a director I'm beginning to enjoy more and more. The cool factor here is off the charts, but it's believable, too. A departure from the ordinary that you'll be glad you took.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
I'll admit, I didn't get to see this movie to the end, and I only wanted to see the scene with Crispin Glover, which was strange, but slightly funny. I didn't understand this movie, but I should probably see the rest of it.
Super Reviewer
June 2, 2011
Dead Man is quite an interesting ride. Described as an "acid Western", this revisionist western is an exercise in style. Neil Young's guitar glides over mesmeric black and white shots of the frontier. Depp is excellent as a man having an existential crises, and the large amount of character actors makes this film a joy to experience. It really just seems like everyone is having as much fun on screen as they are when the camera is off. Jarmusch clearly knows his westerns and it is interesting to see him take the familiar tropes of the genre and turn them on their head. It can be a little self indulgent at times, but it is definitely worth a watch.
Super Reviewer
September 2, 2010
Only Jim Jarmusch would have a man as handsome as Johnny Depp spoon a dead baby deer.
In the end, I can't say that I "got it." It seems like Jarmusch is playing with film conventions by defying all that most people expect from Westerns. For example, Natives are treated with the complication and dignity that they deserve. Also, the hero is not a gunslinger but an accountant from Cleveland.
But violating conventions does not a good film make. The music is often annoying, and it seemed like Nobody's final moment on camera was the result of Jarmusch - at the last minute - saying, "Oh, shit, I forgot to wrap up that story line." The best I can say about Dead Man is that it was enjoyable to watch, but the narrative failed to motivate any strong feelings or thoughts.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2010
It's a very good movie, but I can't say that it's one of my favorites. The real flaw of this movie is the typical "Miramax Art House" it has and the overly quirky comedy that comes along with it. However, once it gets going it becomes a very original and interesting Western. I find it interesting that most of the movie centers around a man slowly dying and becoming more and more connected with the spirit world. The characters and performances in this really sell it, Johnny Depp as "the other" William Blake has a very large bit of character development. He goes from an accountant to an outlaw over the course of the story. I really liked the traditional Black and White look, it reminded me a lot of why John Ford chose to make The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance the same way.
Super Reviewer
July 24, 2007
Nice little dark comedy with good cameos a la Billy Bob Thornton and Alfred Molina.
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2007
An amazing cast brings this lyrical "western" to life. A poetic cousin to TAOJJBTCRF and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid
Super Reviewer
April 10, 2007
Jim was going for a feeling, the feeling of a dead man's last days and he captures it well. Kinda boring, but good preformances by the cast and overall pretty cool. Gotta love lance hendrikson eating a person.
Super Reviewer
February 25, 2007
Odd but still very unique mix of noir and western, with the right choice of soundtrack. That plus the many cameos and humour makes this both a fun and creative film. It will either click on you or it won't. Lance Henriksen plays one ruthless villian.
Super Reviewer
January 2, 2007
As I see more and more of Jim Jarmusch's films I begin to appreciate more and more that he is truly one of the best American filmmakers. In Dead Man he throws another curve ball; casting Johnny Depp as an accountant named William Blake in the Old West, who, after finding his job taken, ends up wanted for murder and on the run, meeting up with an Indian called Nobody who is convinced he is the English poet of the same name and must take a "spiritual journey". The plot, the characters, everything in this film is off the wall and unconventional and it's just awesome. The cast is great and a perfect compliment to the material. I'm also convinced by Dead Man that Jarmusch is simply a master at the form of using black and white in film - he's used it so effectively in some other awesome films (Stranger Than Paradise, Coffee & Cigarettes) and it's used so well here, too. This is a film to see if you want something totally originally and fresh; and it's a solid film, to boot.
Super Reviewer
½ May 21, 2007
Nobody: Did you kill the white man who killed you?
William Blake: I'm not dead. Am I?

This movie has been referred to as an "acid western." That's about right considering the mix of the period with the views of the Indian.

Johnny Depp stars as William Blake, a man who has traveled on a long train ride from Cleveland to a town called Machine in the mid 1800s. He has come to get a job, but finds its no longer there. Having spent everything just to come to town he is stuck. Soon after, he meets a girl, sleeps with her, her lover breaks in, kills the girl, Blake kills him, gets shot and leaves.

This is the setup for the rest of the film in which an Indian named Nobody finds him in the wilderness and they go on a spiritual journey together.

This is a film that is definitely not for everyone. It is very slowly paced in true Jarmusch style. Its really about thinking while watching. And its fairly long.

Despite this, I was engaged throughout. It has a very solid cast, featuring a number of supporting players, establishes a great relationship between Blake and Nobody, and has a great score by Neil Young.

Marvin (Older Marshall): Your William Blake?
William Blake: Yes, I am. Do you know my poetry?
Super Reviewer
½ March 6, 2007
Rarely does a film really put you as the viewer into the realm of dying. Not adrenaline-pumping death throes, but a slow agonizing and totally alien death. Depp's ennui and fatigue is mesmerizing.

The film contains one of the most grittily honest views of the old west I have yet to see in a film, and is viewable for that alone.

Thankfully, there are many more reasons to see it. Again, Depp's performance is perhaps the best in his entire career. The dialouge also stands out as particularly well-crafted.

The haunting and repetitive guitar riff keeps you feeling like you are suffering a slow, delusional death. Rarely does a movie start out so clear, and intentionally lower you into a symbolic and hazy world where you feel you went through the cauls of death itself.

Some might say caul of death, but others might merely say it made them sleepy. If you really want to see what direction can do other than thrill, scare, entertain, humor or romanticize... well, this is a movie to explore.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2006
The scene where Billy Bob Thornton and Iggy Pop fighting over who gets to violate Johnny Depp first is hysterical. Great soundtrack too.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2006
This movie has been wrongfully trashed by some critics, and that's a damn shame. Perhaps it's just me, but how could an existentialist western with a great all-star cast not be good? People not big into deep and abstract philosophy might get a little bored, but there's still enough violence to kep things interesting.
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