From the director of such trivial if occasionally entertaining junk as Dante's Peak & Species, White Sands is a neo-noir with Willem Dafoe as a small-town New Mexico deputy trying to solve a crime that brings him into conflict with Mickey Rourke as a charming but sociopathic arms dealer, Samuel L. Jackson as a duplicitous FBI agent, & Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as the erotic temptation for a wholesome family man.
It's by no means a great film, having rather the feeling of made-for-cable. The budget was too small for much in the way of "real" action (car chases, shoot-outs, or fire gags) which works to the film's betterment, forcing it to rely on story & acting rather than plowing through roadside fruitstands or leaping from one moving vehicle to the next.
Yet for all the plot-strivings, there are unconvincing moments when Dafoe's character, who is not naive throughout but occasionally ridiculously naive, seems totally foolish not to see who can't be trusted. Nearly every plot twist that surprises his character is rather too obvious for the audience.
The plot is one of those "kitchen sink" deals that tosses in something new at every turn whether or not it's apropos. Not many of the twists & turns are at all interesting, & the biggest plot twist is merely ridiculous. By the end the dialogue (but nothing we actually see) is insisting on an international ultra-cynical conspiracy of the CIA, which is just plain goofy. The script would've been far better to have stuck to the tale of a small-town cop having stumbled upon a murder involving the FBI.
But Dafoe is a delight to watch perform. He creates a genuine good guy, not just a Hollywood good guy. This deputy is truly decent & it is interesting to see how he manages to remain so even while undercover chumming around with the murderous arms dealer. A good film for fans of Dafoe or Rourke, but a more tepid film for fans of action thrillers.
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