Movie Review: 'Sioux' a Murder Mystery Celebrating Lakota Lifestyle
By Chris Willman
We're not talking Tony Hillerman here. This is the kind of agenda-heavy, culture-celebrating picture that has the hero solving the mystery not by gathering clues but by going on a vision quest where the twist is mystically revealed to him, an hour or more after it's occurred to the sober audience at large. Such sweat-lodge shorthand frees the rest of the movie up for plenty of reverential luxuriation in the Lakota lifestyle and lots of loving glances between Phillips and Salli Richardson, the knockout beauty he finds in his first hour on the Brown Rocks reservation.
Phillips--who directed as well as starred--clearly thinks he's doing the Lakotas a favor with his respectfulness, when he would've better honored them by holding out for a halfway-tenable script. As is, L. Virginia Browne's screenplay has Phillips' newly discovered grandfather sagely chastening the citified hero with platitudes like "Time has no meaning in the healing process," when all he did was ask how long he'd been knocked out from a beating. Administering the blows are Sioux City's local white cops (played by Bill Allen and grizzled Ralph Waite), whose racist menace is so overt the plot can only pay off in inevitabilities.
But watch out for the local businessman/rancher/sheriff! He's up to no good!
In short, Sioux City's plot is one you see often--whenever an urban Indian is out of touch with his roots. It's competently executed but nothing special.
Other than the touchy-feely vision quest and healing, the main problem is how generic everything is.
Given the title, does the story take place in Sioux City, Nebraska? No. Does it take place on the Santee Sioux reservation on the Nebraska/South Dakota border a couple hundred miles away? Probably not, but who knows? I don't think anyone even mentions the word "Sioux" or "Lakota."
Actually, the fictional Broken Rocks reservation looks like it was filmed north of Los Angeles. And...it was. It would make more sense to use a small California rancheria as the movie's tribe. But the Sioux are the "cool" Indians, and the only Indians most people know, so....
Anyway, Sioux City was mildly entertaining but not a must-see. Rob's rating: 7.0 of 10.
For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.
Below: The full movie.