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on September 2, 2000
How unfair is it that Tim Keogh of the Amazon.Com organization gets to lead off the list of reviews for this movie by stating - "This disappointment from Jim Jarmusch stars Johnny Depp in a mystery Western about a 19th-century accountant named William Blake, who spends his last coin getting to a hellish mud town in Texas and ends up penniless and doom struck in the wilderness." I don't know if Tim was busy stuffing his face with popcorn but he makes three erroneous statements in this first line of his totally off-base review.
1) This movie is not a mystery! 2) Johnny Depp spends his last coin buying whiskey. 3) The "hellish mud town" of Machine is on the West Coast - not Texas. (After all, it would take a while to ride by horseback from Texas to British Columbia where the Coastal Indian Tribes were located).
You may be asking yourself why I take issue with such mundane details? The answer is obvious - to prove the point that Tim Keogh wasn't even watching this movie, and therefore, has no right to review it. Simply put, Dead Man is a cinematic masterpiece! Jim Jarmusch has made a number of strong movies, but Dead Man surpasses the others as a brilliant work of art.
You can see by reading the other reviews that support for Dead Man borders on fanatical. There are few movies that I have watched repeatedly but I continue to see this one over and over again. Everything about the film is different from the conventions of Hollywood mass consumption "fast-film". The story unfolds in a slow and methodical manner and requires much attention on the part of the viewer. If you invest in it, Dead Man will repay you many times over.
If you liked Forrest Gump and The Sixth Sense then you can go see another mindless mainstream movie with Tim Keogh and the majority of the ignorant American public. If you need more than that . . . buy Dead Man. I'll bet you watch it more than once!
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on November 23, 2010
If you aren't an accolylte of Jim Jarmusch (the director of Dead Man), you may find the pace of this film slow and tedious. On the other hand, if you appreciate the offerings of French New Wave film makers from the 60's and the gritty drama's of the 70's output from BBS (Five Easy Pieces, King of Marvin Gardens), you'll find it easy to dial into this surreal western setpiece.

From the outset, we are thrown headfirst into the reality of William Blake (Johnny Depp), on his way from Cleveland to the town of Machine on a steam train, where a job as an accountant in a mill called Dickinson Metal Works awaits him. En route, he encounters a few uncomfortable situations - most notably when an un-named coal shoveller from the locomotive (Crispin Glover) sits across from him and tests his wherewithal. A memorable line comes when suddenly the passengers leap from their seats, raise their shotguns and start firing out the window, and Glover's character spouts "They're shooting buffalo, government says they shot a million of them last year alone."

Upon his arrival in Machine, Blake finds that the job he travelled for has been filled, and the mill owner (Robert Mitchum) laughs him out of the office. From there, Blake finds misfortune after misfortune, while encountering a colorful pallete of characters on the way to a bitter conclusion.

The above provides a synopsis - but it hardly evokes the stellar storytelling and visual complexity conveyed by Jarmusch and longtime cinematographer Robby Muller (whose previous work includes films with Wim Wenders and Lars Von Trier). This is an indie tour de force on the most under the radar level. The supporting cast alone fills tiny parts with some heavyweight talent: Gary Farmer, Gabriel Byrne, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton, Crispin Glover, Jared Harris, Iggy Pop, John Hurt, Michael Wincott, Alfred Molina, Lance Hendrickson... enough already! The script is ripe for quotes, and the soundtrack is 100% Neil Young on an electric guitar, strumming along to the scenes - perfectly meshed.

It's a shame Amazon has used Tom Keogh's review to give potential purchasers such a negative first impression of such a memorable bit of film making prowess. Jarmusch doesn't make films to rake in cash, he's an artist making films to fulfill an artistic mandate. Imagine a filmed version of Cormack McCarthy's novel "Blood Meridian" and you'll find it easier to grasp the gritty post-modern Western scope that Jarmusch has embraced. As far as his film's themes and methodologies, they resonate from piece to piece - Dead Man fills in perfectly between Night on Earth and Ghost Dog. To jump in head first to Dead Man, it will definitely leave you wondering "what the....?", but upon viewing his back and forward catalogue, you'll get the picture.
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on December 4, 2003
I never saw this on the big screen, but after watching the DVD I think it would have been great to hear Neil Young's music coming from all directions and see the brilliant photography on the big screen.
Dead Man, no doubt, will be loathed by some as being meandering and slow. However, I'm one who was thought this was absolutely brilliant. Some would probably describe this as just the story of someone who is fatally injured right at the beginning of the film and spends the rest of the time dying - and they'd be right - but it wouldn't do justice to the amazing acting of all concerned (esp. the bounty hunters - The talkative Michael Wincott - who still manages to keep talking after being shot about 6 times, and the scary, taciturn Lance Henrikson).
Johnny Depp (Bill Blake) yet again proves what a good actor he is, he was totally believable as the accountant who finds himself penniless and adrift in an totally alien world and his slow descent from a "stupid white man" to "killer of white men".
Gary Farmer was excellent as Nobody, an English-educated Indian with a love for Williams Blake's poetry and a desire to see Blake "return" to the spirit world in the proper way. There are also some great parts played by Alfred Molina as the missionary, Iggy Pop, Bill Bob Thornton, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt etc., all of whom added to the surreal atmosphere.
The black and white photography is magical, the story is bleak, funny, shocking, uplifting and painful in equal parts.
If you like your films full of action and dont want to think too much about the plot - this one is definitely not for you. If you love films that can be interpreted on many levels, with interesting characters, great acting and wonderful photography, you may - just possibly - love this film.
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on November 19, 2009
A masterpiece!

I am not a movie freak, and my DVD collection is a very exclusive one.

Jim Jarmusch's movie is a wonderfully troubling one. And the more you're watching it, the more you discover new accents.

In our world, with Hollywood and so on, it is a privilege to have such a genius producer.
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on February 15, 2008
Right up front I'll state that I generally like movies that have well-defined plots, tell a good story, and have a satisfying ending. So, really, this movie wasn't for me (or my husband, who likes movies with positive endings that exemplify the triumph of the human spirit).

However, having said that, I did recognize some unique things about this film that make it stand out (though I wouldn't watch it a second time). There was some fairly innovative camera work, unique stylistic touches, grim realism superimposed on black comedy, and clever caricatures of some of the bizarrest of human behaviors. The result was that, even though the movie was unrelentingly depressing, at the end, all I could say about it was "That was just TOO weird!"

I love Neil Young, and, as some people have noted, his soundtrack was perfect for the "Too Weird" character of this movie. It was grating at times and too loud; but then, that was what was needed.

The "William Blake" theme that ran throughout the movie was another strange touch. Probably most of the people who watch this film will have as little idea who William Blake was as the protagonist. The bizarre experience of seeing a Native American quoting William Blake in the grim wilderness is just - again - Too Weird!

In the end, trying to give credit where it was due, even though it was not to my taste, I have to say that it was truly a unique movie, probably worth watching once just to be able to say "That was TOO Weird!"
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on November 16, 2005
I had seen this movie several times before I bought it, and I bought it so that I could lend it to friends and then talk to them about it. It's just one of those movies that inspires thoughtful conversation with all of the crazy imagery, dialect and I think the acting is phenomenal from every actor.
Johnny Depp's acting is always good, but in this movie there is something just a little more. His charecter is meant to change through the movie, and I don't know if the viewer is really supposed to pick-up on that, but damn he is good. Case in point, at the beginning of the movie he can barely stand to see a gun, is pretty much useless with a gun, but by then end he is pretty comforatble with one.
I'm tempted to use all 1000 words, but I think I'll just leave it by saying Jim Jarmusch did an absolutely PHENOMENOL job on this movie. This script is A+, the acting is A+ (all around), the sets are A+, and the soundtrack by Neil Young is another A+.
Just buy this movie. If Amazon is charging too much for you, go somewhere else or borrow from a friend - this is one of the RARE movies that could be seen a hundred times and still inspire new thought.
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on January 4, 2005
= a trip for those who has a stomach for real movies
before i wached this movie i never thought that a filmaker could make so naturaly and axepting the trip of a human through death. is written alot about it and mostly they focus about what is going to happen after it happens, but the moment of agony which might be for a human observer a matter of few minuttes , seconds, hours or maybe days we dont find it so often. as Homer at Iliada describe the batlle between Hector and his Nemecis Ackil en careful observer can find the ten moments of the agony of Hector which is killed at the first strike then the rest are the last moments of the victims living with some ilussions produced in his phantassysing agony at the passwaye to death, Jarmusch has describet unicaly all the stages of the trip of a man before passing on the other side of the livings. it is atractive from the first moments when Deep is on the train where the caracters change as the nature itself. starting in the small peacefully towns with relaxte peacefull passengers and with the nature being uncultivated by humans the pasengers which seat near Deep are getting more wild and scary untill he reaches at the heart ot the most canebalestic part of the unknown by the rest of the educated part of society where he is going to make his meeting with death and the trip untill he gets confortable with the idea that he has to leave life behind. in many wayes i thing Jarmusch in the caracter of Deep created a better image of death than Bergman. soundtrack could not been better. one of the best movies of 90-s.
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on June 1, 2004
Do you like Johnny Depp?
Do you love Johnny Depp's weird off-beat roles?
If so you're going to enjoy this movie.
Do you like David Lynch?
Do you love David Lynch's disturbing semi psychotic plots, mind benders, and twisted endings?
If You said Yes to both of these questions. You will love this movie.
Nearly a "western" (which the only reason you can call it a western is because west during...the western times but GET OVER IT) that you would imagine David Lynch creating, then mixing a bunch of depressants in his morning coffee.
If you wanna see a Pop- Teen Culture Johnny Depp, Go elsewhere.
If you want to see the Dark Inner sides of Depp. Which are rediculously amazing. Buy this. Now.
Oh and Iggy Pop, Billy Bob, Crispin Glover, and other familiar faces are hilariously perfect.
Im sure my wording and all that is crap cause its 2am, but im not trying even slightly to sound inteligent. So just read it, and get the point.
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on May 31, 2004
This is definitely one of the most ambitious and original works that I have seen from the nineties, a time when film (especially horror) was slipping into a trend of over-hyped sensationalism. Out of the mass of special effects ridden blockbusters came a gritty, odd film in black and white. This is a western in the style of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time In the West." Slow-moving and with surprisingly little dialogue, with chartacters that are so utterly believable and flawed, it captivates the viewer from the very beginning. The film moves like a dream, with slow fades that separate each scene, and a musical score from Neil Young that is driving and apocalyptic. The acting is extremely good from even the most menial roles to those of Depp and Farmer. The plot seems intentionally thin, leaving time and room for the viewer to think about what he or she is seeing (I'm going to spare you my thoughts on the symbolism and meanings and let you draw your own conclusions). The camera work is also stunning, probably more effective in stark black-and white. What results is a very effective, thought-provoking and excellent film.
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on April 23, 2004
For the novice fan of Johnny Depp (i.e., "Edward Scissorhands" and "Pirates of the Carribean"), this movie will prove to be a pleasant surpise, into the world that Mr. Depp truly dwells. His portrayal of a man, William Blake, already broken, yet unknowing of his future, is exuberantly interesting and beautifully unsettling. Jim Jarmusch is known for his keen sense of cinematography and laughs, but this picture shoots straight from the hip of seriousness and straight-forward conciousness: Silent, subtle, and poignant, this film is brilliant.
Driven by a powerful subtext, this movie finds Johnny Depp as William Blake (hint: Not the dead poet) who is steering a seemingly promising life, straight into a dimming light, toward a city of burgeoning industry, somewhere in the old west. Complete with an encounter with a an Native American Indian named Nowhere, whom soon becomes his guide, he sets out to find, unknowingly, what it is that his life has in store for him. Throughout his travels, deep into woodlands, he makes his way toward, to meet what it is he does not yet completely understand.
The underratted facet of this movie, is the fact that it is shot completely in black and white (or, as my friends refer to it, Blake and White); an aspect of film that has not been efficiently accomplished since "Young Frankenstein". A perfectly foreshadowing cameo from Crispin Glover rounds out a cast that includes Robert Mitchum and Iggy Pop. Watch this and please be impressed by the purely natural feel to this movie, for it is an art that has been lost with the passing of such directors as Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa.
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